Among the films in this category are three country-specific documentaries—on Libya, Afghanistan, and Mali—as well as two films shot specifically to discredit the investigation by France Television journalists Ksenia Bolchakova and Alexandra Jousset into Wagner's activities in the Central African Republic and the charges against Maxim Shugaley
. If these documentaries do not directly concern Wagner's activities, they nevertheless contribute to influence operations intended to justify the company’s actions abroad.
The Central African Republic company Lobaye Invest, directly linked to Prigozhin, also produced an animated short film for children, “Lion and Bear,” released in 2019. It represents the Central African Republic as an elephant that is attacked by hyenas, representing the rebels. The lion, who leads the elephant’s army, is defeated. The altruistic intervention of the bear, symbolizing Russia, is decisive both for the fight and for the reconstruction of the lands destroyed by the enemies
.Mercenaries Speak: “Reverse Side of the Medal”
Communication around Wagner is not only done by Evgeny Prigozhin and the companies linked to him, but also by actors in Russian-speaking cyberspace that are more difficult to connect to the businessman. This is particularly the case of the group “Reverse Side of the Medal,” which presents itself as a platform for the mercenaries themselves. Reverse Side of the Medal, under the name RSOTM Gray Zone, is present on Telegram (288,000 followers in June 2022), YouTube (8116,000 followers), VKontakte (105,000 followers), and Instagram (13,000 followers). It also has an official website selling many items of branded merchandise, including t-shirts and patches. Wagner is never explicitly mentioned,” but indirect Wagnerian slogans can be found
Reverse Side of the Medal has produced advertising clips and posters, including for a travel agency, that use images of fighters in Syria. Most of them are set to music: they use very catchy or internationally famous songs, such as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman
”. According to the report by Ksenia Bolchakova and Alexandra Jousset, this form of communication re-exploits the propaganda codes of the Islamic State.
Reverse Side of the Medal sells two books produced by a recurring guest on their social networks, Vladlen Tatarsky: “The Leak
” and “The Other Side
.” Both books play less on heroization à la Hollywood than on presenting the “reality of mercenary life,” transforming the latter into ordinary heroes in the eyes of the reader. These books take up the themes already elaborated by Russian popular literature around the war in Donbas: many volunteers have recounted their daily exploits in the name of the “New Russia” project (Novorossiya), producing a new genre of war literature
that became popular in Russian bookstores after 2014.
Finally, in terms of written productions, there is also a comic called “Wagner.” The latter cannot be formally linked to Reverse Side of the Medal, although the group has promoted it and it has had a dedicated Telegram channel
since December 2020. Six volumes were published between December 2020 and February 2021 and uploaded to a comic book scan site, but they have since been deleted. In this work, “Wagner” is a character in his own right, an “avenging angel” whose family was cruelly killed in his childhood and who developed supernatural powers following this tragic event. He first fought alone for the Donbas, then went to Syria, Libya, Mozambique, and the Central African Republic. In the plot, like Marvel characters, “Wagner,” is ultimately recognized as a hero and a guarantor of peace by populations and governments alike.Conclusion