Russia’s state-controlled television has begun to discredit Wagner’s exiled chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to media reports from July 6.
Prigozhin, who has been expelled to Russia after leading a retracted coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin, had his home searched by officials, according to the BBC. The search was televised and highlighted Prigozhin’s wealth in a negative light.
Prigozhin had accepted a deal to move to Belarus to avoid facing consequences for his role in the attempted coup, however reports have suggested that he has left Belarus and may have returned to Russia. Prigozhin’s decision to leave came only days after officials reported that they feared he would not be safe in Belarus.
The footage of Prigozhin’s televised St Petersburg home features a number of opulent decorations, a chandelier and piles of money. The home was shown on the Rossiya 1 network.
"Let's have a look how this fighter for the truth lived, someone who has two criminal convictions and who kept claiming that everyone else was a thief," a commentator allegedly said, according to the BBC’s translator.
“Let's have a look at the palace built for this campaigner against corruption and crime," Eduard Petrov said.
Accusations of criminal activity and highlighting criminal past
The investigation into Prigozhin’s home led investigators to allegedly find bags of white powder, which Russian news suggested could be an illegal drug.
The segment went on to delve into Prigozhin’s criminal past. Prigozhin received a number of criminal convictions for theft and robbery in his younger years.
"They say that it is the experience and connections he received from crime lords behind bars which helped him walk the path from a hot dog seller to an authoritative master of cauldrons and pans," Rossiya 1's correspondent said, according to the BBC.
In one clip, Russian television showed an image of a sledgehammer with "Use in case of important negotiations" inscribed onto it, which is thought to be a reference to the murder of a man accused of betraying Wagner with a sledgehammer.
The sledgehammer has become an unofficial symbol of Wagner since the murder, so much so that Prigozhin sent a bloodied one to members of the EU parliament in 2022.
"What happened has obvious roots in his personality, business interests and his crime-ridden past," a presenter on Russia’s NTV said, according to the BBC.