The Kremlin fired the head of TASS last summer in punishment for the Russian state-run news agency’s coverage of the Wagner mercenary group’s aborted mutiny, the Moscow Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the situation.
Sergei Mikhailov was dismissed as general director of TASS in early July, 10 days after Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin staged an attempted coup against Russian military leaders.
Mikhailov was fired by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, who called it a voluntary resignation, the newspaper said. Chernyshenko announced the appointment of a new general director chosen by the Kremlin: Andrei Kondrashov from state-run VGTRK and a former election spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin, which keeps tight control on state and private media, was unhappy with what it saw as an insufficient level of pro-Kremlin coverage by TASS, the Moscow Times reported, citing sources at TASS and in the Russian government. TASS was the first media to publish photos of Wagner fighters on June 24 taking the the city center of Rostov-on-Don and blockading the Southern Military District headquarters, a command center for the war in Ukraine, the newspaper said.
“TASS covered all this in too much detail and promptly. Some kind of insanity has happened to them. They have forgotten that their main task is not to report the news. It’s to create an ideologically correct narrative for the Kremlin,” the Moscow Times quoted an unnamed Russian government official as saying.
Mikhailov did not respond to a question from the newspaper about the reasons for his resignation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Mikhailov was sacked. “No, it’s all wrong,” the newspaper quoted Peskov as saying when asked if Mikhailov was fired. Peskov not respond to a question about why Mikhailov resigned, the paper said.