Wagner ‘Troll Factory’ Accused of Meddling in US Elections Shut Down

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  • Russia’s “troll factory,” accused of interfering in US elections, has been shut down.
  • The factory was created by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the now-exiled leader of the Wagner mercenary group.
  • Russia is stripping the Wagner chief of his influence and finances after his short-lived rebellion last week.

The Russian “troll factory” used to meddle in US elections has been shut down. 

The demise of the influential Internet Research Agency came a week after its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, led his Wagner mercenary organization on a mutinous march that ended just hours from Moscow. As part of a deal to end the rebellion, Prigozhin was exiled to Belarus. 

Since then, Russian authorities have moved to strip the Wagner boss of his influence and finances. The Moscow Times reported last week that — with Prigozhin gone — the Internet Research Agency was looking for new management. But over the weekend, the infamous troll farms were officially disbanded, Reuters reported.

The United States levied sanctions against the Internet Research Agency in 2018, accusing the group of creating and managing numerous fake online social media accounts, some of which posed as “legitimate” grassroots organizations, interest groups, and even a state political party. Those accounts organized political rallies and used the personal information of US citizens to open financial accounts, which funded the agency’s own operations. The US Treasury Department said the effort reached “millions of people.”

Prigozhin confirmed he created the Internet Research Agency earlier this year, The Moscow Times reported. “I was never just a financier of the Internet Research Agency,” he said. “I invented it. I created it. I ran it for a long time.”

All Prigozhin-owned media also shut down

Along with his troll factories, Prigozhin’s entire media portfolio closed over the weekend.

Yevgeny Zubarev — the director of RIA FAN, a Prigozhin-owned outlet within his larger Patriot Media Group — announced the decision to “leave the country’s information space,” according to Reuters, citing a video shared on Saturday. 

The announcement came after Russian news sources reported the suspension of any and all media outlets connected to Prigozhin.

Across the board, those media outlets were nationalist and provided “positive coverage of Prigozhin and his Wagner Group” and were often also pro-Kremlin, Reuters reported. Outlets like RIA FAN attacked Prigozhin’s rivals, like St. Petersburg Gov. Aleksandr Beglov, Radio Free Europe reported. 

Nevskiye Novosti, a Patriot Media Group newspaper located in St. Petersburg, announced it shut down on Friday.

“Because we cannot continue working on the Russian Internet or fulfill our obligations to our partners and advertisers, I have made the decision in conjunction with the board of the Patriot group to stop publication as of June 30,” Nevskiye Novosti chief editor Andrei Krasnobayev told Radio Free Europe. 

Prigozhin’s lucrative catering firm loses state contracts

FILE - Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, around his factory which produces school means, outside St. Petersburg, Russia on Sept. 20, 2010. Prigozhin, the millionaire owner of the Wagner Group private military company, has used his longtime ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase his clout. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Putin announced an investigation into Prigozhin’s catering firm after the failed Wagner mutiny.


Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File



After Wagner’s stunning mutiny, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an investigation into Prigozhin’s catering firm.

According to Reuters, Putin said Concord Catering made almost a billion US dollars from government contracts to supply food to the Russian army.

“I do hope that, as part of this work, no one stole anything, or, let’s say, stole less, but we will, of course, investigate all of this,” Putin said, according to Reuters.

After spending time in prison, Prigozhin got back on his feet by starting a hot dog stand, which he parlayed into a series of restaurants and eventually a catering company. Concord Catering quickly became a Putin favorite, earning Prigozhin government contracts and a close relationship with the Russian president.

Prigozhin eventually became known as “Putin’s Chef” and used the connection to expand his business empire and his influence.

Concord has now lost all of its lucrative catering contracts, according to The Telgraph, which reported on Sunday that the catering firm would no longer be working for the Russian defense ministry, citing local media. 

Prigozhin’s catering deals were just some of the more than 5,000 state contracts he received over the years.

Investigative reporting from Current Time TV, a Russian-language news outlet based in Prague and controlled by the US government, estimated that since 2011, those contracts have totaled about 209 billion rubles, or just over $2.3 billion.

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