RIGA, Latvia — A pro-Kremlin political operative and blogger claimed Thursday that he was fired from an online media company after he published an interview in which the head of the Wagner mercenary group warned of a potential revolution in Russia and said Moscow’s war in Ukraine had backfired.
On Tuesday, Dolgov posted a lengthy interview with Yevgeniy Prigozhin on Dolgov’s Telegram channel. The Wagner boss delivered a harsher-than-usual tirade about Russia’s failures in the war, including describing top commanders of the regular military as incompetent.
Prigozhin also decried the detachment of Russia’s wealthy elite, accusing them of insufficient commitment to President Vladimir Putin’s brutal onslaught in Ukraine. He said that anger against the wealthy could boil over into a popular uprising akin to the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The interview was widely seen as Prigozhin’s attempt to use his recent victory in seizing the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, where his mercenaries served as a crucial fighting force, to increase his domestic standing. He has been locked in a bitter personal battle with the regular military chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Dolgov posted a video on the Telega Online blog saying he had been fired over the interview. The clip was quickly deleted from the channel.
“The interview came out late Tuesday evening, and early Wednesday morning, I was told that I was fired,” Dolgov wrote on his blog. “Whoever made the call was likely upset by Prigozhin’s statements, but they can’t do anything to him, so they decided to take it out on the interviewer and fire [me] from everywhere.”
Dolgov claimed that the Telega Online project was sponsored by the Internet Development Institute, or IRI, a Kremlin project that produces online propaganda and states its mission as “aiding the dialogue between industry, the state and society.”
IRI is run by Alexei Goreslavky, a pro-Kremlin journalist and media manager who is known for dismantling a widely influential independent website, lenta.ru, in 2014. That move was a precursor of the Kremlin’s broader crackdown on media that by 2023 left the country with virtually no independent outlets widely available to ordinary Russians.
IRI did not comment on the situation with Prigozhin or claim ownership of the project, but Dolgov has attended IRI-organized events and award shows
Dolgov, in his statement, asserted that there is “free speech in Russia, thank god and the president.”
“I don’t think that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] will be happy to learn that the anchor of Telega Online was fired over an interview with … the hero of the Russian Federation,” Dolgov said, referring to Prigozhin’s state-awarded medal for his contribution to the war in Ukraine.
Dolgov’s employer denied that he had been dismissed, saying he had planned to leave “long before the interview with Prigozhin.”
“We understand that hype always hits the audience better than any balanced position … but the ‘dismissal’ of our respected Konstantin [Dolgov] was not at all as spontaneous as he claims,” Telega Online said in a statement. It accused Dolgov of self-promotion at the expense of the video show. Dolgov called that statement a lie.
The internal feud sheds light on a broader battle Prigozhin and media outlets friendly to him are waging as he finds himself in competition with the Russian Defense Ministry over influence and role in the Ukraine war. Prigozhin has repeatedly complained that federal-controlled television channels have stopped covering him and the Wagner Group, a departure from fawning reports broadcast last year praising the mercenaries’ military prowess.
Prigozhin warned against anyone who might try to silence him.
“I will, of course, support Dolgov, but try to shut me up, and we will see how you manage to do it,” Prigozhin said in an audio recording shared by his press service on Thursday. “You are idiots if you think you are doing a service to the authorities. You are actually doing them a disservice. There is a war going on, and you should be thinking about how to save the country.”
He added, “So the degenerates who own this Telegram channel, you will burn in hell.”
One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.