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Russia. Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted that he created a “troll factory”

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Pro-Kremlin businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who actively supports Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, admitted in response to a question from journalists of the German weekly Der Spiegel that he created the Internet Studies Agency, known as a “troll factory”. Its task is to disseminate content that praises the authorities in the Kremlin and undermines Western values.

Mentions of the “troll factory” appeared in the Russian independent press almost a decade ago. In an extensive publication published on September 7, 2013 independent “Nova Gazeta” she wrote: “Where do the trolls live? And who feeds them. A special report from the office where they wind noodles around their ears for three shifts.” “In St. Petersburg and Moscow, Internet trolls operate in specially equipped offices, praising (Moscow mayor) Sergey Sobyanin and Vladimir Putinscolding Alexei Navalny and USAas well as defending Syria‘, the newspaper reported at the time.

Journalists of “Nowa Gazeta” before writing this text found an advertisement for a job at the Internet Studies Agency, pretending that they were interested in employment. They were interviewed by an employee of the Concord company, owned by a St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. The headquarters of the “agency” was in the Olgino district of St. Petersburg.

Work around the clock

The “troll factory” had several departments that created social media posts, edited news and recorded videos. There was also a department responsible for comments posted on the portals of the Western press. The Russian section of Radio Svoboda estimates that the “agency” may have employed up to 400 employees. They worked around the clock. They were paid for writing comments on the achievements of President Vladimir Putin and posting posts critical of the opposition.

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“Our norm is 120 comments a day,” a former employee of the “troll factory” told Radio Swoboda. “The work is not urgent, sit back, type the same crap for 11 hours,” he reported.

The station reminded that the official founder and general director of the “agency” was retired police colonel Mikhail Bystrov. Documents published in 2014 by the hacker group Anonymous showed that the “troll factory” was financed by structures associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin.

READ PREMIUM TEXT: Yevgeny Prigozhin. The mongrel of capitalism made in Russia

Yevgeny Prigozhin Getty Images


Interfering in US elections

The Russian section of Radio Svoboda reminded that the US authorities, which in 2018 accused the “troll factory” of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, determined that its founder was Prigozhin. Independent journalists in Russia asked a representative of the businessman for comment on this matter, but in response they heard that “neither Concord nor other structures belonging to Prigozhin are in any way related to activities aimed at interfering in American elections”, and Prigozhin “in no way way is not related to the troll factory.”

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also reported that the Internet Studies Agency and Prigozhin were behind the theft of personal data of US citizens and the creation of hundreds of fake social media accounts.

Yevgeny Prigozhin visited the wounded mercenaries of the Wagner Group being treated in St. Petersburg Reuters/Concord Press Service

Reply of the editorial office of the weekly “Der Spiegel”

In response to a question from the German weekly Der Spiegel, Prigozhin admitted that he had created the Internet Studies Agency. “I was never just a sponsor of the Internet Studies Agency. I invented it, created it, managed it for a long time” – he replied. His statement was also quoted on Monday by independent Russian media.

The pro-Kremlin entrepreneur, subject to Western sanctions, added that he created the Internet Studies Agency to “protect the Russian information space from rude and aggressive propaganda of anti-Russian theses from the West.”

At the end of September last year, Prigozhin he also admitted publicly to forming the Wagner Group. This private mercenary military company is actively involved in Russia’s armed invasion of Ukrainerecruiting, among others, prisoners from Russian penal colonies. The mercenaries of this formation also fought in other countries of the world where armed conflicts were taking place, including Syria and Lebanon.

When Russia attacked Ukraine, Prigozyn said that he was giving his company premises to employees of the Cyberfront Z network who wrote propaganda commentaries about the war.

Novaya Gazeta, Radio Liberty, meduza.io

Main photo source: Getty Images

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