Ukraine war: Teens used to report Russian propaganda

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A photograph  of Alexander Malkevich helium  posted connected  instagramImage source, Instagram

Image caption,

Alexander Malkevich (pictured) is simply a adjacent subordinate of the caput of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin

By Vitaly Shevchenko

BBC Monitoring

While Russia's notorious Wagner mercenaries person been astatine the forefront of warring successful Ukraine's ravaged eastbound municipality of Bakhmut, a adjacent subordinate of Wagner brag Yevgeny Prigozhin has been progressive successful different conflict - for the hearts and minds of radical successful occupied areas down the beforehand lines.

Alexander Malkevich has helped acceptable up pro-Russian TV stations successful cardinal areas captured since the commencement of the full-scale penetration successful February 2022.

Through his links to Prigozhin the media brag has been progressive successful projects spreading Russian power from Africa to the US and helium is nether Western sanctions for spreading disinformation.

Formally, Malkevich's occupation is moving state-funded TV successful Prigozhin's location city, St Petersburg. But successful the summertime of 2022 helium moved to then-occupied parts of Ukraine, making the confederate metropolis of Kherson his base.

His main task was to acceptable up pro-Russian tv stations successful regions captured since the commencement of the full-scale invasion. He has masterminded Tavria TV successful Kherson, Za TV successful Melitopol and Mariupol 24 successful the eastbound Donetsk region.

Image source, Telegram

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Alexander Malkevich (right) has recruited underage reporters for his propaganda channels

The channels' reporting strictly follows the Kremlin's propaganda narratives. For example, a caller programme aired by Tavria TV reminded its viewers of the reasons fixed by Moscow to warrant its warfare against Ukraine. "Russian President Vladimir Putin says the peculiar subject cognition was a forced step, due to the fact that Moscow had been near with nary different choice. Such information risks had been created for Russia that nary different absorption was possible," it said.

One large obstacle facing Malkevich was an acute shortage of radical consenting and capable to enactment for his channels.

To bid staff, helium opened a "media school" successful Kherson, became caput of the journalism section astatine the section assemblage and authored a textbook for aspiring media workers successful Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, called "Real Russian journalism for caller regions".

Some of his students joined his TV stations earlier becoming legally adults. Two reporters who started moving for Za TV and Tavria TV respectively were some employed astatine the property of conscionable 16. The BBC has chosen not to place the 2 girls due to the fact that of their age.

Image source, Tavria TV

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One of the teens is known arsenic "Russia's youngest warfare reporter" and got an grant from President Vladimir Putin

But Malkevich's stint successful Kherson was short-lived. Shortly earlier the metropolis was retaken by Ukrainian forces successful November, helium fled on with immoderate instrumentality and staff. While evacuating, they came nether fire, and 1 unit subordinate (a Russian writer and erstwhile FSB operative) was killed.

One of the teen reporters was wounded during the shelling, and was aboriginal presented with an Order of Bravery by President Putin astatine a ceremonial successful the Kremlin.

Malkevich archetypal roseate to comparative prominence successful 2018, erstwhile helium launched USA Really - a website acceptable up successful the US by RIA FAN, which, successful turn, is the astir salient outlet successful the unchangeable of propaganda and disinformation media associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner caput erstwhile dubbed "Putin's chef" due to the fact that helium supplied nutrient to the Kremlin.

RIA FAN grew retired of Prigozhin's infamous "troll factory", which dispersed pro-Kremlin views crossed societal media and the net from offices successful St Petersburg.

But USA Really failed to instrumentality off, and Malkevich was concisely detained and questioned by the US authorities and aboriginal sanctioned for "facilitating Prigozhin's planetary power operations".

A twelvemonth aft launching USA Really, Malkevich was backmost successful St Petersburg, wherever helium acceptable up different propaganda venture, a foundation, reportedly with a rotation doc linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Melkevich is simply a adjacent subordinate of Yevgeny Prigozhin (left), the Wagner main known arsenic "Putin's chef"

The Foundation for National Values Protection sent a antheral named Maxim Shugalei to Libya, ostensibly to probe nationalist opinion. The aforesaid antheral had been progressive the erstwhile twelvemonth successful Russian meddling successful statesmanlike elections successful Madagascar, which saw 1 campaigner offered a suitcase stuffed with cash, according to a BBC investigation.

While successful Libya, 1 of Shugalei's engagements included a gathering with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the lad of the precocious deposed person Col Muammar Gaddafi. Soon afterwards, successful May 2019, helium was arrested connected suspicion of interfering successful Libya's affairs connected Prigozhin's behalf.

One Libyan quality serviceman told the BBC: "If Russia had its way, we would person had Saif Gaddafi giving his triumph code successful Tripoli's celebrated Martyrs' Square."

Shugalei was freed successful December 2020 and claimed successful an interrogation that helium had lone been released due to the fact that Prigozhin had sent "several 1000 fighters" to Tripoli.

While successful complaint of the propaganda foundation, Malkevich besides campaigned for the merchandise of Maria Butina, a Russian cause sentenced to 18 months successful jailhouse successful the US for attempting to infiltrate American governmental groups.

When she returned to Russia, Butina became an "expert" astatine the foundation, and erstwhile Shugalei came backmost from Libyan captivity, helium replaced Malkevich arsenic its head.

But Malkevich's links to Prigozhin's organisations remained. For example, his video programme for RIA FAN, called "Just A Minute", continued astatine slightest until September 2022, and the latest of his galore interviews with the outlet is dated February 2023.

Malkevich's enactment successful Ukraine did not spell unnoticed by the Russian government. In January 2023, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin rewarded him for "organising TV broadcasting successful territories which are being liberated."

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