While Western media kept their audience updated step by step as Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared close to having his troops invade Moscow, mainstream Russian TV preferred to inform their viewers of other, perhaps less pressing, issues.
Author Beth Knobel took to Twitter on June 24, as the mutiny was in full swing, to share a picture of what a major 24-hour Russian channel was discussing – the illegal production of caviar.
The choice of seemingly keeping Russians not up to speed with the developing events, she said, resembled what Soviet state television did on August 19, 1991, when Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” was broadcast on loop while Soviet Communist Party’s members attempted a coup against the then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.
During the tense weekend of June 24 and 25, Russian television reportedly waited for orders from the Kremlin on how to report Prigozhin’s uprising.
Read more: Putin panicking over ‘economic crisis’ as Ruble tumbled to new low after coup
A report by The Times read: “Journalists awaited orders from the Kremlin and then, with the country’s leaders scrambling to determine an official line, broadcast a documentary about the delicacy, cut away frequently to adverts and repeatedly read out official statements from the Ministry of Defence.”
Support for the Wagner Group leader – who alongside his troops was hailed by people in the city of Rostov during the weekend of upset – was not broadcast to Russians.
Similarly, the destruction from the weekend and the statements Prigozhin has issued from June 26 onwards have been largely ignored by Russia’s TV channels.
Given the majority of Russians still rely on television to get their news, this media blackout may have been particularly damaging.
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A survey carried out by Levada Centre in October 2022 on 1,604 adults showed 64 per cent of those polled use TV as their news source, and 49 per cent said to trust the news broadcast.
Internet followed with 39 per cent of those surveyed saying they get their news from there, but only 17 per cent said to trust the web as a source.
The coup attempt, which Prigozhin claimed was a demonstration against the Russian military leadership rather than a threat to his once-close ally Putin, was ended thanks to a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
It was agreed Prigozhin and his troops would not face criminal charges for their action if the leader of the mercenary troops went into exile in Belarus.
The troops were given the choice to either follow him, return home or sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defence.
Earlier today, pictures emerged from what is believed to be a camp being set up for Wagner troops.
Located in the Osipovichi district part of the Mogilev region neighbouring Russia, the arrival of the Wagner troops prompted young women to seek refuge with relatives living in other areas of Belarus, it was claimed.
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