Casus Wagner: Will Prigozhin’s Downfall Impact Armenian Media?

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

I believe it is needless to explain what happened in the Russian Federation with Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private “Wagner” army recently. The topic was so “hot” that journalists and social media users worldwide followed the dramatic events.

The title of this article may seem strange to many since Prigozhin is mostly known as the founder and head of the Wagner Group and the Russian president’s chef. However, Prigozhin is a very versatile person and deals with almost everything. By the way, one of his first and main businesses was media related.

A decade ago, he founded an organization in Saint Petersburg that eventually became known as a troll factory.

Later, the individuals and organizations behind the troll factory fell under US sanctions due to US intelligence agencies’ evidence that they had attempted to manipulate the 2016 presidential election between Trump and Clinton. This year, on February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, Mr. Prigozhin admitted that he was the mastermind behind the troll factory and steered it for the sake of Russia.

In addition, Prigozhin created and managed the large “Patriot” media group, including RIA FAN, which is quite “citable” in Armenia.

Abbas Juma, a renowned journalist and Telegram channel manager with strong ties in the Armenian media industry is among the directors of “Patriot”. His name was widely circulated in the Armenian information field, especially during the 2020 war.
The “Patriot” media group utilized various platforms, including traditional news outlets, Telegram channels, and military journalists.

Prigozhin had journalists and bloggers working specifically for him. The structures he owned had financial ties with bloggers who weren’t directly associated with him but ensured organized and methodical propaganda.

Prigozhin had connections with influential military-political Telegram figures such as Rybar (Mikhail Zvinchuk), Colonel, Cassad (Boris Rozhin). These are people who, on the one hand, have a large audience and influence on the Russian and Russian-speaking audience in general. On the other hand, they regularly become active in the context of issues related to the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.

Currently, Prigozhin’s media empire has completely collapsed.

A huge army of Telegram admins, journalists, “fake breeders, and spreaders” is under the influence of other groups.

This may also imply some reshaping of the media domain. While the authorities in the Russian Federation largely dominate the media operating within their territory, various groups are still present within it.

In addition, it’s noteworthy that these Telegram channels are run by multiple administrators who can provide paid services using free resources. These resources have been utilized in the past and are likely to be used in the future; this may include the authorities of Azerbaijan, local oligarchs with Azerbaijani roots, or individuals linked to Armenia.

After Prigozhin’s downfall, the media market will experience certain redistributions. But it also means it is possible to open new resources to strengthen the influence on the Armenian agenda, both by the Russian authorities and other players.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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One Response to “Casus Wagner: Will Prigozhin’s Downfall Impact Armenian Media?”

    Thanks for bringing up not easily visible yet important topics like this.

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