Profiting from War Propaganda: Influencers Linked to Putin

In a world where the battle lines are drawn not only on the ground but also on the digital front, influencers have found a new arena - war propaganda.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Profiting from War Propaganda: Influencers Linked to Putin
© Getty Images Sport/Carl Court

In a world where the battle lines are drawn not only on the ground but also on the digital front, influencers have found a new arena - war propaganda. Stories of Russian propaganda influencers playing significant roles in the war events in Ukraine are emerging more frequently, shedding light on the key players and their market value.

The Business of War Information

BBC journalists, under the guise of potential advertisers, sought to determine the price tags of these influencer services. Alexander Kots, once a pro-government newspaper correspondent but now a wartime influencer boasting over 600,000 followers on Telegram, provided a glimpse into the business.

Kots, who operates from the occupied Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, quoted a rate of 48,000-70,000 rubles (460-670 euros) for a post, with the price varying based on the ad's prominence in his Telegram feed. Kots wears multiple hats, considering himself a "reporter in information warfare." Yet, he acknowledges the underlying role that people like him play in Russian propaganda, affirming its dependence on influencers for content dissemination.

Spotlight on the Top Propagandists

Arguably one of the most famous faces in this propaganda arena is Semyon Pegov, better known by his pseudonym, WarGonzo. With a following surpassing 1.3 million, Pegov's influence doesn't come cheap, as he charges a hefty 1,800 euros per post.

Equally intriguing is the Telegram channel "Gray Zone," which holds exclusive access to Wagner, a private military group. Advertising agents affiliated with Wagner-based channels quoted the BBC a rate of €300 per post.

Meanwhile, for the channel run by Alexander Simonov, correspondent for the Ria Fan website initiated by the late mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the going rate is 210 euros per post.

Deciphering Fact from Fiction Fueling the Z-blogger market is a consistent inflow of exclusive video content, attracting a diverse audience.

These range from domestic pro-war supporters to Western and Ukrainian analysts eager to decode the ground reality from Russian trenches. However, it's imperative to approach with caution. Some content shared by pro-war bloggers is fabricated, blurring the lines between reality and propaganda.

Yet, these efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his gratitude for the Z-bloggers, further highlighting their influential role in the current geopolitical scenario.

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