The three murdered Russian journalists found in the Central African Republic (CAR) were investigating Wagner Group mercenaries acting in the region, run by the man, Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as ‘Putin’s cook’.
Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorguev were “on an investigation into Russian private mercenaries, in particular the Wagner group,” said Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos Oil Co. chief and Kremlin critic, who added that they were working with an investigative news organization that he funds. “These were brave men who were not prepared simply to collect documentary material, but wanted to ‘feel’ it in the palms of their hands,” Khodorkovsky said in a statement on his website, reported Bloomberg.
The Wagner Group was involved in a firefight with U.S. forces in Syria earlier this year and hundreds were killed and wounded. The Kremlin frequently uses mercenaries to create ‘plausible deniability’ and to reduce official expenses.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued comments by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“Yesterday evening the identification procedure of the victims’ bodies was completed, they are three Russian citizens. The names mentioned by media were confirmed (Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Okhran Dzhemal),” the diplomat said. “Right now, our Embassy is in close contact with the CAR’s law enforcement bodies, which launched a criminal investigation.”
The Embassy and the Foreign Ministry had made an inquiry with the CAR Embassy in Moscow about the Russians’ entry documents. “Now we know that they had entered the CAR as tourists,” the diplomat stressed. “They had not filed any applications about their journalistic activity.”
Moscow seems to supporting the narrative that the murders were a robbery by local criminals.
The Russian Embassy in the Central African Republic reported on Tuesday that three men had been found dead near the city of Sibut (300 kilometers north of the CAR’s capital city Bangui) on July 30. The Russian Foreign Ministry said later that the men had press cards featuring the names Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Okhran Dzhemal, reported Russian state news agency TASS.