(CNN) — Yevgeny Prigozin, a Kremlin-affiliated oligarch known as “Vladimir Putin’s chef”, appeared in a Telegram post on Monday acknowledging Russian interference in the US election.
Prigozhin on Tuesday, responding to a journalist’s question about possible Russian interference in US congressional elections, said that Russia has interfered, is interfering and will continue to interfere in the democratic process in the United States.
“I will answer you in a very subtle and delicate way, and I apologize, I will allow some ambiguity. Gentlemen, we have intervened, intervened and will intervene,” said Prigozhin.
“Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do it. During our typical operation, we will remove both the kidney and the liver at the same time,” he said.
Prigozhin has no position in the Russian government. However, his remarks appear to be the first acknowledgment of a high-profile Russian campaign by someone close to the Kremlin to interfere in the US election.
Prigozhin is reportedly one of Putin’s confidants, to the point that he was dubbed the president’s “chef” by the Russian press after he began organizing events for the Kremlin. Prigozhin subsequently obtained lucrative catering contracts for schools and the Russian military, and by 2010 he was a Kremlin figure with a growing business empire.
The seriousness of Prigozhin’s comments, which included some sarcasm, was not immediately clear. But the United States has approved Prigozhin for funding the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm accused of meddling in several recent US elections. Special Counsel Robert Mueller also accused Prigozhin of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with alleged election interference in 2018.
The Kremlin has been accused of interfering in US elections since at least 2016, when hackers Hackers linked to Russia gained access to emails from John Podesta, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign. Those documents were published during the final phase of the campaign to embarrass the Democratic nominee.
US officials and prosecutors warn of efforts rented and similar propaganda campaigns by Russia ahead of the 2020 presidential election and Tuesday’s contest. Private investigators said Thursday that suspected Russian agents used far-right media platforms to discredit Democratic candidates in Georgia, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Russian government officials, including Putin, have consistently denied meddling in American politics.
Over the years, Prigozhin has worked mainly behind the scenes and behind the scenes. However, in recent months he has developed a more public image, possibly due to a shift in the balance of power within Russia, adding to the damage in Ukraine.
In September, Prigozhin admitted to founding the Wagner Group, a private group of mercenaries accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine, after years of refusing to join the organization.
Recently, US and European officials have indicated that Prigozhin is trying to use the faltering war effort to gain influence in the Kremlin. Prigozhin reportedly confronted Putin directly about his belief that the conflict was being handled unfairly.
The Kremlin has denied that officials criticized its handling of the war.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Sebastian Shukla, Tim Lister, Edward-Isaac Dovre, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Zachary Cohen and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.