A car explosion wounded a Russian military blogger and left his driver dead Saturday, according to state media. It marked the second recent blast involving one of the country’s nationalist writers, drawing further attention to the role they play in Moscow’s propaganda machine.
The blogger wounded Saturday is Zakhar Prilepin, a former member of the State Duma whose Telegram channel has more than 300,000 subscribers. Last month, another military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, was killed in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg.
Writers like Prilepin and Tatarsky are just two examples of prominent voices in the murky world of Russia’s “milbloggers.”
Offering a rare critique: Unlike Russian state media, many of the most influential military bloggers have not shied away from criticizing Moscow for its battlefield defeats. That includes its retreat from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, which Prilepin called a “catastrophe” in a commentary last September. More recently, bloggers have criticized the stalling, drawn-out fight for Bakhmut.
Such commentary is especially rare since Russia forced the closing of any remaining independent media shortly after invading Ukraine in February 2022.
Pro-Kremlin commentators, who are sometimes called “voenkory” for “war correspondents,” have filled some of this information vacuum.
“Military bloggers in Russia today provide a very cloudy service but a service nonetheless. They are really the only ones who are monitoring what’s happening on the front line,” Candace Rondeaux, the director of the Future Frontlines program at the New America foundation, told CNN.
Uniquely well-sourced: Many of the bloggers have deep sources within the military, the Wagner mercenary group or among pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, which gives them unparalleled access to information.
Tatarsky himself was born in Ukraine, reportedly fought with Russian separatists in the Donbas and had close ties to Wagner.
“Obviously, they have a very biased view of the war. But they are critical to understanding what’s happening at least on one side of the flux,” Rondeaux said.