Two of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent political supporters don’t actually support him at all according to a newly leaked phone conversation released in early March.
In the 35-minute phone call, former Russian senator turned billionaire oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov and popular Moscow music producer Iosif Prigozhin can be heard speaking poorly about Putin and Russia’s political leadership.
“They are the dumbest people,” said the voice identified as Iosif Prigozhin in reference to Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, current Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and current National Guard Director Viktor Zolotov.
According to the independent Russian news agency Meduza, Prigozhin went on to say that all three men acted like they were gods and that he had nothing good to say about any of them. “They’re F-ing scum,” Prigozhin said.
When the topic came around to Putin himself, Prigozhin criticized Russia’s President for the way in which he pitted his staff and inner circle against each other in order to save himself from the disaster of the war and the state in which the country found itself now.
“Do you see what he has done? He put them against each other on the f-ing chessboard. Just to f-ing save himself” Prigozhin explained to Akhmedov.
For his part, Akhmedov said that Putin wouldn’t be saved in the end and he would pay for everything that he had done to Russia since he was the one responsible.
“He won’t save himself, he is responsible for everything,” Akhmedov said according to a translation of the conversation’s transcript. “We have a republic, a federation, a presidential country. The president is responsible for everything. For everything. He will be held accountable.”
Later in the conversation, Akhmedov referred to Putin as “Satan” and made fun of his height, calling Russia’s President a “dwarf.”
Since its release, several Ukrainian and independent Russian outlets – including Meduza – have analyzed the audio recording that is understood to have been made on January 24. They have broken down the transcript. According to Meduza, Akhmedov is heard saying the Russian government ‘[expletive] us, our children, their future, their destiny,’ in reference to Putin’s war in Ukraine. ‘He’s Satan,’ he adds, referring to the Russian dictator, before also criticizing the deputy head of the Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, who was also Russian president for four years from 2008 to 2012. ‘Both this one [Putin] and the second [Medvedev] are notorious. Lilliputians are [expletive] undergrown, notorious,’ Akhmedov is heard saying, Meduza reports.
Noor Ibrahim of The Daily Beast quickly picked up the story after Prigozhin and Akhmedov’s phone conversation was publicized on Ukraine’s Channel 5, and noted that it could very likely be genuine based on chatter coming from sources inside Russia that spoke with iStories, an independent Russian news group.
“The recording of the conversation between Prigozhin and Akhmedov is genuine, the FSB leadership recently held a meeting and instructed subordinates to take action,” a post on iStories Telegram page read.
Newsweek’s Ellie Cook also picked up the story and reached out to Prigozhin, Akhmedov, and the Kremlin for comment, though no party has reached out to yet.
Akhmedov denied that the recording was authentic just after its release, telling the Russian online newspaper Fontanka that the conversation was a “symbiosis of spoken phrases” that were “generated and never spoken.”
Prigozhin initially denied the leaked phone conversation, saying in a March 26th video message that the conversation was the product of today’s technologies.
“I want to say that today’s technologies, neural networks, allow you to fake not only a voice but also a conversation,” Prigozhin said according to a Daily Mail translation.
“You know, the Internet has turned into a big dump where there is something useful and you can devalue, [or] discredit any person. Everyone knows my political position, it is present in all interviews and in the public field,” the music producer added.
Prigozhin later admitted that some of the phrases heard on the recording were real according to reporting from The Daily Beast and the backlash may be swift.
Russia currently has several laws under which both Akhmedov and Prigozhin could be charged. “Those found guilty of insulting the Russian state, its army, or Putin himself face fines and even jail time,” The Daily Mail wrote.
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