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News

Wagner boss Prigozhin disbands Patriot media group, home of propaganda “troll factory”

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Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) head Yevgeny Prigozhin has dissolved the St. Petersburg-based Patriot media group, a source at the company confirmed to Telegram channel Mash. The group, which Prigozhin founded in 2019, acts as an umbrella organization for dozens of publications, and includes the Internet Research Agency — widely known as a propaganda “troll factory” which conducts online influence operations to advance Russia's business and political interests abroad.

Publications such as RIA FAN, Narodnye Novosti, Nevskie Novosti, Ekonomika Segodnya, and several others within the organization are discontinuing their operations.

The Wagner PMC founder has let go of all the media group's employees, according to a report by Rotonda, citing a source with knowledge of the matter. Telegram channels Mash, VChK OGPU and Rybar – all linked to the Russian government – also reported the closure of the media group. Prigozhin's social network “YaRus” has also been reportedly shut down.

Access to websites affiliated with Prigozhin's media holding has been restricted by Russia's internet watchdog Roskomnadzor, as reported by news agency Interfax. Currently, all of these publications’ websites are inaccessible. The entity responsible for including the sites in the register of banned information in Russia has not been specified.

Investigative outlet Dossier previously reported on the inner workings of Prigozhin's business empire, which includes the now-defunct media business, the infamous “troll factory,” the Concorde group of companies, the Wagner PMC, and other projects – namely school catering, construction, hotels, gold, diamond and oil mining, a meat processing plant in Africa, car washes, and many others. All of Prigozhin's business projects are linked to each other, noted the publication.

Almost half of Prigozhin's employees worked without employment records, and officially registered employees received 40-60% of their salaries cash in hand, according to accounting documents.

On the evening of June 23, Prigozhin claimed that the Russian Defense Ministry launched missile strikes on the Wagner PMC’s rear camps. According to Prigozhin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “covertly deployed artillery personnel and helicopter pilots to exterminate us.” Prigozhin then promised to respond to the strike and “to deal with those who destroy Russian soldiers.”

On the night of June 24, Wagner PMC mercenaries marched – virtually without resistance – from their bases in eastern Ukraine to the Rostov region, where they captured one of Russia's largest cities, Rostov-on-Don, as well as the headquarters of the Russian army’s Southern Military District. The group later managed to blockade the Russian military in Voronezh – another major city.

After marching over 700 kilometers from Rostov to Lipetsk – a town within reach of Moscow – Prigozhin announced that the mutiny was over, adding that his troops would turn around and head back to base. The end of the coup was apparently negotiated through Alexander Lukashenko, with Prigozhin being guaranteed a safe departure to Belarus. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), having earlier initiated a criminal case against Prigozhin for the “organization of an armed rebellion” (Article 279 of Russia’s Criminal Code), announced that it would be dropping the charges.

Following the end of the uprising, the fate of Prigozhin’s businesses has come into question.

Vladimir Putin has publicly called Prigozhin a “traitor” and a “turncoat.” The Wagner Group’s mercenaries have once again been offered to sign a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry – an offer that Prigozhin had explicitly refused several weeks earlier.

Alexander Lukashenko claimed that Prigozhin and some of his mercenaries had already arrived in Belarus, and were asked to set up camp at a deserted military facility. Representatives of Russia’s State Duma also claimed that Prigozhin's people would no longer take part in the war in Ukraine.

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