'Putin's chef' confirms plans for Chatham Islands in cryptic email to ...

2 Jun 2023
'Putin's chef' confirms plans for Chatham Islands in cryptic email to ...


Yevgeny Prigozhin speaks holding a Russian national flag in front of his soldiers in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

The Russian oligarch boss of the Wagner private military company, known as “Putin’s chef”, has told Stuff in a cryptic email his group has plans for the Chatham Islands.

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s response follows Stuff revealing on Wednesday that the mercenary boss was pictured in front of a world map marked the group’s interests.

One of the pins was in the Chatham Islands.

Wagner is currently fighting in Ukraine as part of the Russian invasion, having just taken the city of Bakhmut with an army of 40,000 prison conscripts, according to the US.


Wagner PMC appears to have interests in the Chatham Islands, according to a map behind leader Yevgeny Prigozhin caught in a recent video.

In response to questions about what the group’s interest in the Chathams were, Prigozhin gave a short, cryptic response.

"We will not share this information, everything has its own time."

Stuff then asked if the pin was a mistake intended for another place, or if it was being used to hold the map on the wall.

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A spokesperson for Prigozhin then said they would “not disclose the plans of the PMC ‘Wagner’ regarding Chatham Island.”

New Zealand has sanctioned the Wagner entity, as well as Prigozhin and other individual leaders in the group.

The mayor of the Chatham Islands, Monique Croon, said on Thursday morning it “seems absurd, but you can never rule anything out”.

Croon didn’t want to comment further, but said she had referred it to the local MP, Rongotai’s Paul Eagle, over whether the Government should investigate.


Different coloured pins appear on the world map and appear to mark different kinds of interests.

On Wednesday afternoon, before the Wagner response, Croon told Stuff in an email she was not concerned with Wagner supposedly having an interest in the Chathams.

“It is difficult to see why Chathams would be of interest to the Wagner group logistically and we are also closely aligned with the NZ government being part of NZ.

“Maybe it was an expression of Russian sovereignty to make the western world nervous?,” she said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Defence Minister Andrew Little said the Defence Force had advised “they are not aware of any activities or operations by the Wagner Group in New Zealand”.

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In the video released on May 24, a world map behind Prigozhin is marked with different coloured pins, that appear to be marking where Wagner’s interests are.

There are red pins in Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Sudan, all where Wagner is in combat operations.


A Ukrainian major was among those to honour Te Tai, who died fighting for Ukraine.

Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch and is known as “Putin’s chef” after having food business interests as well as personally serving the president at state banquets.

It was Wagner troops who invaded Ukraine and took Crimea in 2014.

The group is also active across Africa and is suspected of having killed 500 civilians in Mali in 2022.

Dr Yuiry Sak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, said he didn’t know what Wagner’s interests were in the Chathams.

“But whatever it is – it is nothing good,” Sak told Stuff.

“If he is in NZ – the authorities should detain him.”

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