Sites Linked to ‘Putin's Chef’ Added to U.S. Sanctions List

(Bloomberg) -- Media outlets linked to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin were added to the U.S. Treasury’s blacklist of sanctioned entities over the conflict in Ukraine and alleged election meddling.

The Federal News Agency, USA Really, Nevskiy News and Economy Today, all based in St. Petersburg, are part of a growing list of what the Treasury refers to as “specially designated nationals and blocked persons,” according to a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

The Federal News Agency, allegedly backed by indicted Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who’s known as “Putin’s chef” for his state catering contracts, is suing Facebook Inc. in the U.S. for shutting down its account in April. U.S. officials have accused the site of being part of a troll farm thought to have influenced the 2016 presidential election.

USA Really editor-in-chief Alexander Malkevich was also named in the statement, as was Elena Khusyaynova, who was identified as a contributor to Prigozhin’s “Project Lakhta” in a U.S. indictment in October. The Federal News Service, known in Russian as FAN, describes Khusyaynova in the Facebook lawsuit as the media outlet’s chief accountant.

Malkevich told Bloomberg it is “an honor” but one that is “totally unjustified” to be included on the U.S. sanctions list. “We see a new war by U.S. authorities against journalists and views they don’t like,” he said. The USA Really editor-in-chief declined to comment on whether his site would have to stop employing U.S. citizens who have been writing for it.

FAN General Director Evgeny Zubarev said in an interview in Moscow this month that his organization took legal action to dispel claims that it’s been part of the alleged meddling efforts of Prigozhin, who’s also been linked to Russian mercenary work in Syria and Africa.

“They say we are trolls -- let them prove it,” said Zubarev, a former crime reporter who runs the self-described “pro-Russian” news operation. “You have to have a very low opinion of Americans to really believe that we got their president elected.”

The Treasury on Wednesday also penalized more than a dozen members of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, commonly referred to as the GRU.

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