Agency that hired people to write pro-Kremlin propaganda was sued by ex-employee Lyudmila Savchuk to ‘bring the internet trolls out of the shade’
A Russian court has ordered a secretive pro-Putin “propaganda factory” to pay symbolic damages to an employee who sued them in a bid to expose the workings of the Kremlin’s online trolls.
The Agency for Internet Studies, which hired people to write pro-Kremlin propaganda from a nondescript St Petersburg address, was sued by ex-employee Lyudmila Savchuk for alleged non-payment of wages and for failing to give workers proper contracts.
The freelance journalist claimed she had gone undercover as a pro-government internet troll to expose the outfit.
A judge ordered the shadowy agency to pay Savchuk symbolic damages of one rouble after the two sides had earlier agreed on compensation worth one month’s salary.
“I am very happy with this victory. I achieved my aim, which was to bring the internet trolls out of the shade,” said Savchuk, 34.
For a monthly salary of 40,000 to 50,000 roubles (£490/US$750), Savchuk and other employees bombarded website comment pages with praise for Vladimir Putin.
Unmasked after two months in the job, Savchuk was sacked after she published articles under a pseudonym in local newspapers denouncing the “propaganda factory”.
The Kremlin has claimed that it has no links to the operations of the Agency for Internet Studies.
Authorities in Russia have intensified a propaganda campaign as the crisis over Ukraine has sent tensions with the west soaring to their highest level since the cold war.
The west and Ukraine accuse Russia of sending its troops to fight in its ex-Soviet neighbour but Putin flatly denies the claim and Russia’s state media has done all it can to deflect the accusations.