Prigozhin-controlled Russian media group shuts after mutiny

July 2 (Reuters) – Yevgeny Prigozhin’s media holding group is to shut down, the director of one of its outlets said, highlighting the mercenary chief’s worsening fortunes a week after the collapse of a brief mutiny staged by his Wagner Group fighters.

Under a deal that halted the mutiny, Prigozhin, a former ally of President Vladimir Putin, was allowed to go into exile in Belarus and his men given the choice of joining him, being integrated into Russia’s armed forces or returning home.

Patriot Media, whose most prominent outlet was the RIA FAN news site, had taken a strongly nationalist, pro-Kremlin editorial line, while also providing positive coverage of Prigozhin and his Wagner Group.

“I am announcing our decision to close down and to leave the country’s information space,” RIA FAN director Yevgeny Zubarev said in a video clip posted late on Saturday on the holding’s social media accounts.

Zubarev gave no reason for the decision.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Friday that the country’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had blocked media outlets linked to Prigozhin, without elaborating. The watchdog could not be reached on Sunday for comment.

Russian media have also reported that a “troll factory” allegedly used by Prigozhin to influence public opinion in foreign countries including the United States had been disbanded.

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves the headquarters of the Southern Military District amid the group’s pullout from the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

In his video post, Zubarev praised Patriot Media’s record, saying it had defended both Prigozhin and Putin from attacks by the anti-Kremlin opposition, including jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

The Patriot Group had worked “against Alexei Navalny and other representatives of the opposition who genuinely tried to destroy our country”, he said.

Despite the abortive mutiny, Russian authorities have not officially outlawed the Wagner Group, but Putin said on Tuesday the finances of Prigozhin’s catering firm would be investigated.

He said Wagner and its founder had received almost $2 billion from Russia in the past year.

Wagner’s men have fought some of the bloodiest battles of the 16-month war in Ukraine, and its ranks have included thousands of ex-prisoners recruited from Russian jails.

Under Prigozhin’s leadership, the group has grown into a sprawling international business with mining interests and fighters in Africa and the Middle East.

It was founded in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and started supporting pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Reporting by Felix Light
Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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