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Ultra-nationalist military blogger arrested in Moscow

A Russian military blogger who has written critically of Russia’s conduct in Ukraine was arrested in Moscow Thursday, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

The blogger, Andrey Kurshin, runs the Moscow Calling Telegram channel, which has some 87,000 subscribers.

“A criminal case was opened against the administrator of the Moscow Calling telegram channel Andrey Kurshin for fake news about the Russian army,” RIA Novosti said Thursday.

“While he is being held as a suspect, the case is being investigated by Moscow investigators,” the agency said, citing law enforcement agencies.

The Institute for the Study of War notes that Kurshin is not a mainstream blogger but an ultra nationalist who “commonly attacks many aspects of Russia’s military conduct of the war in Ukraine while supporting the ultranationalist goals underpinning the war itself.”

ISW said that “the wider Russian ultranationalist information space welcomed Kurshin’s arrest and noted that he routinely discredited the Russian military.”

It follows the arrest of prominent Russian pro-war blogger Igor Girkin in July. Girkin had been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military’s mishaps in Ukraine.

In April, Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in an explosion at a cafe in the center of St. Petersbug, where he was appearing as a guest of a pro-war group.

Anti-war protester Daria Trepova, 26, was arrested and charged with terrorism offenses over the incident. Investigators allege that Trepova, acting at the behest of Ukraine, brought a “statuette filled with explosives” to the venue and handed it to Tatarsky.

Russia’s pro-invasion military bloggers have filled some of the information vacuum left behind by the closure of independent media outlets in Russia. Foreign media is also blocked and most opposition journalists are in jail or out of the country.

Most of the bloggers have unparalleled access to information due to deep sources within the state’s armed forces.

Unlike Russian state media, many have not shied away from criticizing Moscow for its battlefield defeats, although the recent arrests suggest the Kremlin’s patience with dissent has grown thinner in the wake of the Wagner mercenary rebellion.

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