Evgeny Prigozhin, the rumored creator of Russia’s infamous “troll factory,” is reportedly planning to buy the news websites Fontanka and Delovoi Petersburg. According to Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg, individuals with major influence over Fontanka (but who aren’t formally its owners) recently came “under pressure” to sell the news website “and another local independent outlet” to Prigozhin.
The group that’s come under pressure is supposedly “Fort Group,” which is owned by Maxim Levchenko and Boris Paikin. The company previously showed interest in acquiring Fontanka outright, and once owned 80 percent of Delovoi Petersburg, before selling its shares to chief editor Maxim Vasyukov.
According to Novaya Gazeta, Fort Group’s main beneficiary is Gazprom deputy chairman of the board Valery Golubyev, who worked alongside Vladimir Putin from 1979 to 1991. Prigozhin reportedly signaled his intention to buy the two news sites through Golubyev.
Vasyukov denies any knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans to buy his news outlet. Fontanka chief editor Alexander Gorshkov, meanwhile, says he’s aware that people “somewhere upstairs” are trying to decide his publication’s fate.
Fontanka has repeatedly published reports about Russia’s “troll factory,” linking the enterprise to Evgeny Prigozhin, a billionaire catering magnate with close ties to President Putin. Fontanka has also reported on the “Wagner” private military company, which is also allegedly linked to Prigozhin. After writing about Wagner’s operations in eastern Ukraine and Syria, Fontanka’s reporters started receiving threats. Earlier this month, the website was taken offline in a major cyber-attack.