Russian TV pundit and Wagner chief supporter goes missing during coup

A Russian TV pundit who went missing during the Wagner group’s attempted coup has said she was unaware mercenaries were marching on Moscow. Margarita Simonyan, the head of Kremlin-backed media outlet RT, was once one of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s biggest cheerleaders, but she claimed to have missed his shocking downfall altogether. Instead, she said she was cruising down a local river as Wagner claimed it was just over 100 miles from the Russian capital.

Speaking on Russia-1 primetime show Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, Simonyan sought to justify the decision to drop charges against Prigozhin and his troops.

Following weekend negotiations with Belarusian premier Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin announced that the Wagner chief would leave for the neighbouring nation and that his soldiers would not face action.

Simonyan was uncharacteristically silent during the crisis but said on air after the crisis was averted that Russian legal norms “are not the commandments of Christ or the tablets of Moses”.

She added: “In some exceptional, critical cases, it turns out that legal norms cease to fulfil their function of protecting law and order and stability, but perform the reverse function, then these legal norms take a running jump.”

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“Because people wrote them without foreseeing such a situation. The choice was between bad and monstrous.”

Simonyan told fellow guests on the show over the weekend that she was silent during the attempted coup as she was on the river Volga.

She claimed she was making a film about Europe’s longest river – which flows thousands of miles through south and central Russia – as Wagner conducted its “march of freedom”.

The media figure, who has been accused of acting as a mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin, is no stranger to making unusual statements.

Earlier this year, she called for ordinary Russians to contribute to the war effort after work.

In May, Julia Davis, the founder of the Russian Media Monitor watchdog group, claimed Simonyan had called on people to “travel to military factories and make ammunition for two hours per day” after work.

Simonyan is among several influential Russians placed on the European Union’s sanctions list.

She was placed on the list in February 2022 due to her “positive attitude to the annexation of Crimea and the actions of separatists in Donbas”.

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