Former US President George Bush has said he only recently learned that he was once served dinner in St Petersburg by none other than Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Speaking via videolink at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Kyiv this weekend, Bush was asked about the recent death of the notorious Wagner chief in a plane crash in Russia.
He replied: “What shocked me is I saw a picture the other day of a G8 summit in St Petersburg where Prigozhin was the guy serving me the food.
“He was the chef. All I know is I survived.”
Bush is referring to pictures of a meeting in 2006, photos of which show Prigozhin lurking in the background.
But this wasn’t the first incident – he’s also in a picture from another meeting four years earlier in 2002.
Прошу прощения, на картинке 2006 год! (Но в 2002-м Пригожин тоже был у них же официантом). pic.twitter.com/eeVQrmzPZ9— Dmitry Kolezev (@kolezev) November 24, 2022
Before becoming infamous worldwide for being the head of one of the world’s most notorious mercenary groups, Prigozhin was in the food business and often provided catering for events hosted by Putin, earning him the nickname “Putin’s Chef.”
On more pressing topics, Bush also had a lot to say at the conference, insisting now is the time to stop Putin.
“This (invasion of Ukraine) isn't the final step for Putin. He wants a large empire. And now's the time to stop him,” he said.
“I think he's more powerful today than he was when I was president. And he's a wily politician.
“He's not afraid to use power to affect his future. He bit off a little more than he could chew.”
Bush then went on to recall his first meeting with Putin, saying: “This was in Slovenia, early in 2001, when I met him for the first time. He wants to talk about Soviet-era debt. I said to him ‘is it true your mother gave you your cross and you had blessing in Jerusalem?'
“This was a fact that the CIA had told me as part of the background preparation. And his whole countenance changed. He went from tense to relaxed and started talking about his mother and the cross and what it meant to him, that he had been rescued.
“And I asked him about his daughters. He let me know he had two daughters, and he was talking about their interests, and I'm talking about my daughters. And we began a working relationship. I looked in his eyes and saw his soul.”
Bush said he had clearly changed since then, adding: “And had I looked in his eyes at the end of my presidency, I would have seen a different soul.
“He became infected with power and money. He was a different guy.”
Bush also addressed the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO, saying at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, he proposed that Ukraine and Georgia join the Membership Action Plan.
“It was really a way of cementing alliances with important young democracies. And it was fought bitterly, primarily by Germany and France,” he said.
Bush also said the US should support Ukraine until Russia is expelled from all occupied territory and should not try to impose peace plans on the Ukrainian government.
“We ought not, just because we're weary, demand that the Ukrainians give up a certain amount of territory to an invader,” he said.
On the topic of President Zelensky, Bush had high praise, saying: “Americans were impressed by Zelensky. He's a tough guy. I've called him the Winston Churchill of the 21st century.
“It's impressive leadership under dire circumstances. Look at this guy dodging missiles. The United States has still got to remain strong, active, and support people like Zelensky”.
But he also sounded a note of caution for Ukraine, saying the issue of corruption must be addressed.
“The United States must make sure that our taxpayers' money is not spent on other purposes than protecting Ukraine from Russia,” he said.
“Americans are annoyed by the idea that their money is going into someone's pocket. I noticed that President Zelensky started removing people from his team, which suggests that this may be an attempt to get ahead of corruption, which is very important.”
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