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Wagner leader’s media group and ‘troll factory’ shuttered after failed mutiny

Yevgeny Prigozhin‘s media holding group is to be closed, the director of one of its outlets said on Friday, as the exiled Wagner leader sees his empire crumble in the aftermath of an aborted mutiny attempt.

Patriot Media was responsible for pumping out a pro-Kremlin editorial line, with its outlets providing positive coverage of Prigozhin and Wagner.

But the operation, which along with the Wagner mercenary group, helped make Prigozhin indispensable to Vladimir Putin, is to be shuttered after the warlord was exiled to Belarus.

Dozens of news sites in the umbrella company, including RIA FAN, People’s News, and Economics Today, will permanently cease operations.

“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.

Mr Zubarev did not elaborate on his decision.

Russian newspaper Kommersant said on Friday that the country’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had blocked media outlets linked to Prigozhin, without elaborating.

Mr Zubarev praised Patriot Media for protecting Mr Prigozhin and the Kremlin from attacks from the West and Russian opposition forces.

He said it had protected Russia from “Alexei Navalny and other representatives of the opposition who genuinely tried to destroy our country”.

The Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” allegedly established by Prigozhin and accused of attempting to influence opinion overseas, is also reportedly set to be closed down.

Mr Prigozhin repeatedly denied that he was the founder of the firm, accused of meddling in US elections, until earlier this year. “I’ve never just been the financier of the Internet Research Agency,” he said. “I invented it, I created it, I managed it for a long time. It was founded to protect the Russian information space from boorish aggressive propaganda of anti-Russian narrative from the West.”

The future of the Wagner Group itself remains up in the air after its stunted mutiny in Russia, but Mr Putin said that Wagner’s finances would be investigated.

Mr Putin said Wagner soldiers would have a choice between signing up with Russia’s military, joining Prigozhin in Belarus, or returning home – but he has also signalled that Wagner’s operations and military support “will continue” in Africa.

Mr Prigozhin has not been seen in public since his brief aborted mutiny on 24 June. He was last pictured driving out of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in an SUV.

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