Structures of “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin hire people to comment on news about Ukraine, according to the Fontanka investigation. The correspondent of the publication went to an interview, successfully passed it and worked for a day in the cybertroops.
When accepting applicants, they warned that “the work is not difficult”, they would need to write about 200 comments daily in Telegram and on other sites (except for VKontakte – there “the information is more or less neutral”). There are 100 people on a shift.
“Chats and channels will be found by the curators, how to write rebuttals, what is the point of investing in them, they will also say. You don’t need to write a sheet: two or three sentences is enough. Our guys will work with you, who have been cooking in this topic for several years, they will be able to help, if anything,” they said at the interview.
The main pool of work, as the curators explained, is to create a patriotic picture in the comments under trending videos and in the “politics” and “news” categories.
As the correspondent of Fontanka notes, the curators themselves adhere to the “postulates spoken by the Russian authorities”: Kyiv refused to comply with the Minsk agreements and increased its armament, Europe financed military supplies.
“There would have been no “explosion” on the 24th, there would have been an “explosion” on the 30th, and not from our side. I have no confirmation, but I think so. In the first week, no strikes were made on residential areas. And now ordinary people they don’t let them hide in a safe place. The National Battalions lock people up in basements and apartments,” says one of the curators. The other – “once communicated with the opposition and became disillusioned with it.”
The work in the cybertroops is arranged as follows: commentators are added to the chat, where videos and reports from patriotic channels are uploaded. This information is published under various accounts in comments to popular videos – for example, to an interview with historian Tamara Eidelman by Yuri Dud, a speech by the adviser to the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovich, a news release of the Current Time TV channel.
“Let’s go here. Now I’ll throw out the reports of the Ministry of Defense for help,” curator Sasha writes, throwing off the link to the video of the Present Time. A little later, he throws a screen into the chat: “Cyber troops on the real-time stream.” On the screen, users take turns quoting the stanzas of the Russian anthem,” writes Fontanka.
After the working day, the curator asks employees to send him screenshots of comments and count the number. On the organization of the process, he adds: “You will be paid your salary on the 15th of each month. There is an opinion that the project can be completed by May 9, then the May shifts will be paid separately.”
One of the curators of the project, Alexei Nekrylov, as Fontanka journalists found out, was previously listed as an employee of companies that the US authorities call involved in the Lakhta project, better known as the “troll factory”. In an official comment, Nekrylov told the publication that he was not recruiting for social networks, and refused to name his occupation.
The “troll factory” was first mentioned in 2013. This was preceded by a DDOS attack on a number of St. Petersburg media, the introduction of an employee of the PR department of the Concorde group in order to search for compromising information in St. Petersburg editorial offices, owned by Evgeny Prigozhin. At the same time, journalists from Novaya Gazeta found an ad and tried to get a job in an office in Holguin, where they met this employee of the Concorde group.
In 2017, RBC journalists found out that during the US presidential election, an American department was opened in the “troll factory”, where about 100 people worked, in addition to posts on social networks, they organized political protests. In 2018, the US Treasury placed resources associated with the “troll factory” on the sanctions list, accusing them of attempting to interfere in the 2016 US elections. According to the department, they belong to “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin. He himself repeatedly denied this connection.