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.”
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: The Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant in southern Ukraine were severely damaged on May 6, unleashing flooding near the front lines. Ukraine and Russia each blamed the other for attacking the site, destroying the plant and damaging the dam. As water gushed from the facility on the Dnieper River, which separates Ukrainian and Russian forces, officials on both sides ordered residents to evacuate.
The fight: Russia took control of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers died in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle, in late May. But holding the city will be difficult. The Wagner Group, responsible for the fight and victory in Bakhmut, is allegedly leaving and being replaced by the Russian army.
The upcoming counteroffensive: After a rainy few months left the ground muddy, sticky and unsuitable for heavy vehicles in southern Ukraine, temperatures are rising — and with them, the expectations of a long-awaited counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces.
The frontline: The Washington Post has mapped out the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
How you can help: Here are ways those in the United States can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.
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