Scandal has rocked Moscow’s high society after a pair of prominent confidants of Vladimir Putin are heard insulting the Russian autocrat.
Former Russian oligarch and senator Farhad Akhmetov and prominent Moscow music producer Yusuf Prigozhin, both supposed supporters of Putin, have been accused of calling him a “devil” and a “troll”.
An audio recording of what is said to be a 35-minute phone call between the wealthy pair was shared by Ukraine’s Channel 5, and was quickly catapulted by other outlets — as well as Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
In the audio clip, the pair are heard eviscerating Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, criticizing his Kremlin entourage for their failures, and even insulting his height.
Any public criticism of Putin is rare in Russia — not least among those who have benefited most from his power consolidation. Those found guilty of insulting the Russian state, its military, or Putin himself face fines and even jail time.
Russian oligarch and former senator Farhad Akhmetov (right) and prominent Moscow music producer Yusuf Prigozhin (left), both alleged supporters of Putin, are accused of calling him a “devil” and a “troll”
Since its release, many independent Ukrainian and Russian outlets – incl Medusa – They analyzed an audio recording that is understood to have been made on January 24th. They split the text.
According to Meduza, Akhmetov was heard saying that the Russian government “we, our children, their future and their fate have been judged” referring to Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“He is a devil,” he adds, referring to the Russian dictator, before criticizing the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, who was also the president of Russia for four years from 2008 to 2012.
Both (Putin) and the second (Medvedev) are famous. Lilliputians are famous,” Ahmedov is heard to say, Medusa reports.
Putin – who often wears platform shoes – is known to be very sensitive about his diminutive height of 5 feet 7 inches – with claims that he suffers from a “Napoleon complex”. Medvedev, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, is smaller than his boss.
Upon the invasion, Prigozhin, 53, bemoans the Russian authorities’ loss to “Kvartal 95” — the name of the production company founded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2003, while he was still an actor and artist.
Most of the senior figures within the company joined Zelensky’s administration after he became president. Zelensky and his close allies have been credited with many of Ukraine’s successes, particularly in the court of public opinion.
Prigozhin says Putin should withdraw his forces from Ukraine and surrender.
The fact that they say they are fighting against them, back and forth, has themselves given them reason. He (Putin) was pushed into this rubbish. He’s into it,” Prigozhin heard Akhmetov say, “Medusa reports.”
To be honest, I’d like to stop, get the Nobel Prize, and deport King. I gave up on the country anyway, damn it.
Akhmedov disputes this, telling his friend that “it will be a long time, unfortunately” before Putin decides to withdraw his armies from the neighboring country.
In the audio clip, the two celebrities are heard eviscerating Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, criticizing his Kremlin entourage for their failures, and insulting his height.
He won’t go back, he can’t move on. It will be like this,” he says, indicating that he believes the war in Ukraine will drag on for years.
According to Meduza, the swearing is a constant throughout the phone call. It says the F word was said 157 times in the recording.
The call, which first appeared on Telegram, caused a sensation in Russia although the story is censored by state media – as it appears to show that key Putin fans especially despise him and his war.
The voice that sounds identical to Prigozhin—no relation to the commander of Wagner’s private army with the same surname—says on the call that the elite blames (Russian Defense Minister Sergei) Shoigu for everything.
Behind his back they call him a mother ******. Their mission is to bring him down, but they haven’t done it yet… “because someone has to be blamed for (the mess).”
In his raging diatribe, he lashes out at one of the KGB’s oldest and closest friends Sergei Chemezov, now the head of high-tech giant Rostec, a major military supplier.
“***** is in charge of the military-industrial complex and gives nothing away. They are the most ****** people in the world.”
My opinion is that they act like kings, like gods, I can’t say a single good word about them. they ********.’
Akhmedov says there is “collective guilt” at the Russia summit.
Each of them at the top is in charge of its own sector, subjugates them all.
There is nothing good left. He (Putin) used to say that the army is the main thing, and it turns out that there is no army either.
Putin thought he had a competent fighting machine but his circle “deceived him, they deceived him, they deceived him.
They live in their own reality, in their own world with their ex-secretaries as wives, and act as if they are special. Everything is just fine.
Ahmadov asks if Putin and his circle can hang on.
Prigozhin replies: “I don’t know.”
Soon after the alleged transfer was brought to attention, Prigozhin adamantly claimed that the recording had been generated by “neural networks,” Meduza reports. On March 26, he posted a video message.
Soon after the alleged transfer was brought to attention, Iosif Prigozhin (pictured) adamantly claimed that the recording had been generated by “neural networks”. On March 26, he posted a video message
A fake audio recording of my supposed voice and a conversation with an influencer. I want to say that today’s technologies, neural networks, allow you to fake not only a voice, but also a conversation.
The Internet has turned into a big dump where there is something useful and you can devalue and discredit anyone. Everyone knows my political position, as it is present in all interviews and in the public sphere.
He later admitted that some of the phrases in the conversation were real, saying in an interview that he “doesn’t remember exactly” the conversation.
People in a private chat can talk about anything. The main thing is that you practically speak and how you act in life and in different circumstances,” he said, according to Meduza. He said he last spoke to Akhmetov in January.
He admitted he was afraid of the consequences he might face given the audio recording, and said that while he and Akhmetov may have spoken some phrases heard in the recording, they had been altered.
He added that he treats Putin with the utmost respect, saying he is a figure of “planetary scale”, and said he would not flee Moscow.
Journalists objected to Prigozhin’s suggestion that the clip was fake. “This cannot be faked or synthesized,” insisted the head of the independent television station, Vadim Vostrov.
The “tones and nuances” made it clear that this was an authentic recording.
“I know that many representatives of the so-called ruling class, from (deputies) to governors, discuss similar things and in almost the same terms.”
He said there was “a lot of attack on Putin personally” in the call.
Journalist Dmitry Kolyzev said the recording sounds “real” but “many details are very difficult to invent and fake” with exact phonemic matches and a “manner of communication”.
“For the first time we have heard what some members of the Russian elite really think and feel,” he said. They hate Putin, they are fully aware of the scale of the disaster and understand that the country has no future with Putin.
At the same time, they are afraid and not ready to do something on their own, and in fact they are simply waiting for the collapse of the system.
He warned of Putin’s retaliation, particularly for slandering his height.
“In their place,” he said, “I will urgently evacuate myself and my loved ones from Russia (if not already) and will not think of returning in the coming years.”
Ukrainian blogger Anatoly Shary, who is pro-Kremlin, said the conversation was “real” and that he had known about it for two weeks. He called Prigozhin’s denial “ridiculous”.
The recording took place in Akhmetov’s room. Headphone phones are evil.
Ukrainian soldiers firing TRF-1 155 mm at Russian positions, on 27 March
Ahmadov – who has been sanctioned in the West like Prigozhin for his links to Putin – did not initially comment on the recording.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin—the founder of the private military company Wagner that was fighting in Ukraine—moved quickly to ensure there was no case of mistaken identity between himself and his namesake, Yusuf Prigozhin.
“It is possible that the people who carried out this special operation and who spread this conversation thought I was talking,” Meduza said.
He said he was calmer than Joseph.