Investigation of the mysterious Alexander Malkevich, Kremlin propagandist in Ukraine

In “The Malkevich Propaganda Machine, the Wagner-allied network in Ukraine,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reveals how this entrepreneur associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin has set up a propaganda system in southern Ukraine in record time.

One year ago, on 22 April 2022, the Russian “special operation” officially entered its second phase. The goal was to “establish total control of the Donbas and southern Ukraine.” To achieve this military objective, pro-Russian television and radio stations suddenly emerged in several war-ravaged Ukrainian cities, in the June-August 2022 time period. In addition, a  “journalism school” was opened to recruit new “journalists.”  Soon after falling into Russian hands, southern Ukraine has been flooded by propaganda designed to boost Kremlin rhetoric and sweep away Ukraine’s past.

“Information is a major factor in the hybrid war underway in Russia. Our investigation of Malkevich’s operations shows the inner workings of the Russian propaganda machine at work in the occupied areas of southern Ukraine. These coordinated actions, additional proof of the disinformation environment the Kremlin has established, underline the urgency of fighting against propaganda and for the right to reliable information.

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk

RSF shows the details of the dynamic system established by the notably ambitious Malkevich. A close associate of Prigozhin, the boss of the Wagner Group mercenary force - and sanctioned by the United States because of those ties - Malkevich has major resources at his disposal. The investigation shows he has been able to channel funds, along with an influx of personnel, mostly from his native Saint Petersburg, to media in the occupied Ukrainian Donbas.

RSF obtained a private telephone message in which a personnel recruiter offered a Russian journalist a job “under the aegis of the presidential apparatus and Prigozhin’s men” on Malkevich’s behalf. The recruiter invited the journalist to set his own salary and bring his team with him.

Our sources in the occupied territories confirm the launch of several channels upon the arrival of Malkevich, who has taken charge of local broadcast propaganda.

Malkevich insisted to RSF that he does this work in his “free time,” on a voluntary and independent basis. But his activity, and the network he has set up, make clear the growing influence of his mentor, Wagner Group boss Prigozhin. After his private militia, his troll factories, and his group of online media, this control of broadcasting in the Ukrainian regions of Mariupol, Kherson and Melitopol marks a new stage of the war that “Putin’s chef” is waging against the West, in the Kremlin’s name.


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