September 29, 2023

The way forward for Russia’s infamous Web Analysis Company, a “troll manufacturing facility” that meddled within the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is unsure after its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin fled to Belarus following his tried army coup.

A number of Russian media shops reported Friday that Prigozhin shut down his Saint Petersburg-based media holdings, together with the troll manufacturing facility, and is firing all of its workers. All media shops and information companies managed by Prigozhin had been blocked in Russia final week following his rebel.

Earlier this week, Russian unbiased information supply The Bell mentioned that the IRA was in search of a brand new proprietor, whereas its operations had been utterly halted following the revolt. This was additionally reported by one other unbiased Russian media outlet, Meduza. Each The Bell and Meduza are blocked and labeled as “international brokers” in Russia.

In line with their studies, Russian legislation enforcement performed raids on all of Prigozhin’s places of work in Saint Petersburg, and confiscated the gear current there instantly after Wagner mercenary troops — led by Prigozhin — took management of a Russian army base and began shifting in a convoy in the direction of Moscow final week.

A number of Russian media shops now report that workers of Prigozhin’s media empire shall be fired with out receiving any compensation, and the businesses will subsequently be shut down. Representatives from Prigozhin’s media group couldn’t be reached for remark.

Prigozhin’s media empire

The IRA gained worldwide consideration in 2016 for its on-line propaganda and affect operations on behalf of Russian enterprise and political pursuits. In 2018, the group was indicted by the U.S. for interfering within the nation’s 2016 presidential election by spreading disinformation on social media utilizing faux accounts and bots.

Prigozhin, who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018, initially denied any ties to the IRA however admitted earlier this 12 months that he based and financed the corporate. “It was created to guard the Russian info house from the West’s boorish and aggressive anti-Russian propaganda,” Prigozhin mentioned.

Aside from the IRA, he additionally had management over a number of Russian media shops. Sources at Prigozhin’s troll manufacturing facility and media shops in Saint Petersburg instructed The Bell and Meduza that when Wagner’s troops captured the Russian metropolis of Rostov final week, many of the workers didn’t present up for work. The corporate’s operations had been quickly paralyzed, as Russian legislation enforcement seized IRA’a servers.

IRA’a possible new proprietor

When Prigozhin turned absolutely engaged with Wagner’s operation in the course of the conflict in Ukraine, his media empire was put underneath the management of Ilya Gorbunov, who had beforehand labored for numerous Russian media shops.

Gorbunov was in negotiations with potential patrons of Prigozhin’s property earlier this week however then instantly disappeared, The Bell reported.

Sources aware of Prigozhin’s media firms consider that Yuri Kovalchuk, the billionaire banker and the proprietor of Russia’s Nationwide Media Group (NMG), could be a high candidate to take over the IRA and Prigozhin’s different media shops in the event that they had been offered.

Kovalchuk beforehand purchased the Delovoy Peterburg newspaper by intermediaries and acknowledged it as an NMG asset solely three years after the acquisition of the publication.

The Bell reported that — if they continue to be in operation — the IRA and associated media websites will seemingly be supervised by the Kremlin, no matter who its new proprietor is.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk
is a contract reporter for Recorded Future Information primarily based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Jap Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She beforehand was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has additionally been printed at Sifted, The Kyiv Impartial and The Kyiv Publish.