‘Vladimir Putin Chef‘s’ Self-control Test to Lithuania

A situation when an airplane relating to the business oligarch of Russia Yevgeny Prigozhin was staying in Vilnius airport for almost two weeks was a hot topic in Lithuanian public domain. The airplane ‘VP-CSP’ arrived in Viln…

A situation when an airplane relating to the business oligarch of Russia Yevgeny Prigozhin was staying in Vilnius airport for almost two weeks was a hot topic in Lithuanian public domain. The airplane ‘VP-CSP’ arrived in Vilnius at night on 27 January to 28 January at midnight from Sochi Adler airport. The plane landed for repairs in one of ‘Avia Solutions Group’ companies of the aviation group controlled by the businessperson Gediminas Žiemelis. Actually, the repairs were not conducted.   
We had many discussions about this – Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, called this situation weird. The Committee on National Security and Defence of the Seimas (hereinafter – CNSD) discussed an option to include Y. Prigozhin into the list of persons subject to sanctions of the European Union (EU). The Minister of Foreign Affairs complained that presence of the plane of the person,who is on the list subject to sanctions of the U, will have no negative impact on relations with the US. According to assessment of the Conservative Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Deputy Chairman of the CNSD, he told that restrictions should be used to companies of the Republic of Lithuania that cooperate with businesses of persons who are subject to sanctions. This was a ‘surprise’ just of one visit of the plane. Everybody probably felt relieved when it left finally.
Who is that hero who causes so many concerns? First, we should start that Y. Prigozhin, who positions himself as a respectable businessman, has a long criminal past. In 1979 the then Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) Court of Kuibyshev gave the first suspended sentence to 18 years young man for a theft. In 1981 he was already sentenced to the actual 12-year imprisonment for robbery, fraud and the involvement of minors in criminal activities (prostitution). He spent 9 years in prison, and then he was amnestied and released in 1990.        
After various attempts to start business, in spring 1998 Y. Prigozhin opened a restaurant in Saint Petersburg called New Island that became popular among the elite of politics and finance – in 2001 Presidents of Russia and France Vladimir Putin and Jacque Chirac had breakfast there; in May 2002 V. Putin met George Bush Junior, President of the United States in New Island; then he celebrated his birthday in the restaurant.
In the second decade of this century people in the international public domain already started talking about ‘Internet Research Agency’ operating in Saint Petersburg that is better known under the title of ‘troll factory’ and is relating to Y. Progozhin, who now  has a title ‘V.Putin’s chef”. The mission of the ‘Factory’ is to spread confusion by using fake news in the West to begin with. It became famous after election of the president of the USA in 2016, when a special prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate intrusion in the election. On 16 February 2018 the prosecutor brought charges against Y. Prigozhin and another 13 citizens of Russia from ‘troll factory’ and after a month the United States imposed sanctions against them. After charges were proved by the court, the door to the United States was closed to the restaurateur, who is listed 106 of the list of Russian wealthiest people , because he might never come back from there. Y. Prigozhin then threated to sue with the USA, however he calmed down quite soon.  
There a lot of articles in the international public domain recently telling about Russian military troops in various parts of the planet. For instance, on 28 January 2018 the News agency Reuters wrote about dislocation of 400 soldiers from so-called Wagner Group to Venezuela to safeguard its leader Nicolás Maduro, who led the country to the bankruptcy and who once and for all became not friends with Washington. Wagner Group is a widely used phrase to describe a Private military company (hereinafter – PMC) owned by Y. Prigozhin.
According to the Internet portal The Bell (29/01/2018), the idea of the Wagner Group (a reference to a composer Richard Wagner, who is a favourite composer of its leader Dmitri Utkin) started to gain its clear framework after Eeben Barlow, a former colonel from the South Republic of Africa, who was the founder of the first legal private military company “Executive Outcomes” in the world in 1989, gave a lecture  during a private meeting in June 2010 to generals of General Staff of the Armed Forces of  Russia in the Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg. Prigozhin was chosen as a constructive person, who had already had a right to provide catering services to the public (including, the army) organizations for ten billions of Roubles.
The first news about a private battalion appeared on the public domain in autumn 2015. The topic of military mercenaries was discussed at the end of August 2017 by the portal of Saint Petersburg , according to which Wagner PMC was alled a non-formal military organization that took part in military actions in eastern Ukraine on the side of separatists and in Syria on the side of Bashar al Assad government. Russia is concerned about making influence in various parts of the world by means of military mercenaries. Such structures are convenient even under conditions of the hybrid war, especially in territories that are geopolitically sensitive, for instance, around Daugavpils in Latvia and Narva in Estonia that are densely populated by ethnic Russians or even in geopolitically sensitive transit corridor from Belarus to Kaliningrad via territory of Lithuania.  
This organization is not relating to any official power structures of Russia (thus, the Ministry of Defence does not have to include its killed or shot mercenaries into its statistics), however, its representatives have received public awards. A picture from reception in the Kremlin in December 2016 published in public domains where D. Utkin and his Assistant Andrei Troshev were photographed with awards next to the President V. Putin.    
‘’ after its investigation came to a conclusion that the Russian PMC could be operating in 10—15 African states – Central African Republic, Libya, North and south Sudan, Madagascar Angola, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and etc. According to the news agency, the Kremlin drew attention to the Black Continent in order to compensate the sustained loss to a certain extent because of global confrontation with the West by rich natural resources and supply of weapons.
On 7 February 2018,  a group of government army (it is presumed, about 500 people) with armed people, whom The New York Times called ‘Russian mercenaries,’ in the report of the article of  25 May 2018, started its way to ‘inappropriate’ oil refinery plants from Kurds and other rebel fighters in the north-east of Syria in the vicinity of Deir ez-Zor city. 30 soldiers from the special convoy  of the USA supported the rebel fighters, called the Russian colleagues and tried to convince them not to start the battle, but they were told that Russians had nothing to do with it. James Mattis, the then Pentagon chief, ordered to open fire and after about 4-hour battle the governmental Syrian and mercenaries who supported them (nobody even doubts – from Wagner Group) lost about 200-300 people. The Russian Ministry of Defence denied its participation in the incident and even now they are afraid to tell openly how many mercenaries from  were killed.   
However, Y. Prigozhin was thanked for his operations in Syria – at the beginning of this year the daily Novaya Gazeta wrote that the companies  and  that are relating to ‘V. Putin’s chef’ will start operating in the area of 12 thousand square meters in oil and natural gas. According to the assessment of the government of Syria, the resources of gas in their country are equal to three quarters trillion cubic meters.   
The plane of such a business style was testing self-control of Lithuania for two weeks. It is obvious that this was done not without awareness of G. Žiemelis, a representative of a large business in Lithuania.
Arūnas Spraunius 

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