Last week what was reported to be a conversation between Russian music producer, Joseph Prigozhin and billionaire Farhad Akhmedov, a former member of the Federation Council, went viral.
In the alleged conversation, they sharply criticized the Russian leadership for the war against Ukraine, even though publicly, both claim loyalty to the Kremlin's policies and openly support the stance of the Russian leadership for the so-called "military special operation."
Even though the audio recording had been made and posted three weeks earlier, on Mar. 7, it was only when the Ukrainian "Fifth channel" released it as part of a news story last weekend, that it came to the attention of the wider media audience.
Who posted the recorded conversation, where, and when?
The 35-minute audio recording of the phone conversation appeared on YouTube on Mar. 7, under the title heading "Outright lawlessness in the country and a sense of hopelessness split Russian society". This YouTube channel appeared to have only been created on the same day and had not previously posted any content.
In the recorded exchange, an individual who was alleged to be Akhmedov, refers to Putin’s so-called military operation as a "fratricidal war."
The individual, that purportedly is Prigozhin, says that Putin has "buried" the Russian people and "is losing to Kvartal 95”. Kvartal is a production company that was founded by Volodymyr Zelensky and some of his school friends in 2003.
On Mar. 24, the Ukrainian "Fifth Channel" aired a news piece that was linked to the audio recording. In response, it went viral in Russian media and social networks.
The most striking quotes from their conversation
Prigozhin: "They are united: Igor Ivanovich [Sechin, a Russian oligarch and a government official], Sergey Viktorovich [Chemezov, the CEO of a state-owned defense conglomerate, a former KGB agent, and Putin's close] and Viktor Zolotov [the current Chief of the National Guard of Russia and a member of the Security Council of Russia all blame Shoigu [Russia's Defense Minister] for everything. They call him a f****r, behind his back, of course. And they want to destroy him as a political figure, the f**k. Yes, because someone needs to be blamed for [military defeats]. Listen, my opinion is simple: they behave like kings, or more like fu**ing gods."
Akhmedov: "They f****d up the situation. They f****d up the country. They all f****d up. The question is, what will happen after them? Kadyrovtsy, on the one hand, Prigozhintsy, on another, both oprichniks [an old word referring to the members of the Tsar's bodyguard] There will be a f****ing Makhnovshchina [chaos with different criminal groups fighting for power] there. They will wave daggers and sledgehammers. Well, this is absolute nonsense. The president will be held responsible for everything. < … > They f****d up us, our children, their future, their fate, do you understand?"
Prigozhin: "We don't have any f***ing options. That is, even if he [Putin] presses the button, f**k, the whole nation has no f***ing future in this scenario. That's all. He f****d us all in the f***ing mouth. For them, people are just garbage, you know."
Akhmedov: "Yes, he [Putin] doesn't give a sh*t about anything. And he doesn't give a sh*t about the people. He's a f***ing Satan. <...> A f***ing dummy. Lilliputians [Putin and Medvedev] Short, insecure. If you fight, then fight. And we can't even fight. Because there is no f***ing army, they can't provide it. They stole everything. Fascism will be there, there will be a military dictatorship. You'll see. That's how it ends."
On Mar. 25, producer Joseph Prigozhin recorded a video saying that a "fake audio recording" was being distributed on the Internet which "allegedly" included his voice.
Shortly after that, in an interview with Fontanka, he admitted that "there are some real moments in the published conversation," adding that the audio recording is a symbiosis of spoken phrases and those that were generated and "never uttered."
"I'm in shock right now, and I don't understand how to live with this sh*t," he said at the end of the interview.
It will really be a challenge to "live with it," given that Prigozhin, along with his wife, singer Valeria, have been demonstrating loyalty and support for the Russian government and Vladimir Putin personally in the media and social networks for many years.
Billionaire Farhad Akhmedov has not yet commented on the recording.
The outlet "Important stories," citing a source in the Russian special services, claims that the recording is authentic and that the FSB leadership recently held a meeting and "decided to take serious measures regarding" the speakers.
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