Three Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic

Three Russian investigative journalists have been found dead in a vehicle with several bullet holes some 30 kilometers north of the town of Sibut in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday July 31.

Reports say the bodies of the three journalists were discovered by local residents who informed regional authorities in the area and officers of the United Nations Mission in the country (MINUSCA).

Ange Maxime Kazagui, minister of communication and spokesperson for the CAR government, said that the journalists’ driver, who survived after fleeing, told the government that the attackers did not speak in French or Sango, the other national language of CAR.

A United Nations force of 13,000 troops and police, one of the biggest peacekeeping missions in the world, has been in CAR since 2013.

Kazagui also said that the journalists entered the country using tourist visas and didn’t register for media accreditation with the government.

A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry  issued on Wednesday stated that the journalists were attacked on July 30 and that identification papers found with the bodies identified them as freelance reporter Orkhan Dzhemal, documentary director Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and camera person Kirill Radchenko.

The three journalists were reportedly assigned in the Central African Republic by The Investigations Management Center (TsUR), a Moscow-based investigative media outlet, to investigate private Russian mercenaries, including a group known as Wagner, allegedly working in the Central African Republic. TsUR is financed by the exiled Russian businessman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky

TsUR’s chief editor, Andrey Konyakhin said the journalists left Moscow on July 27 and their last communication was on the evening of July 29.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed on the Russian television station, Rossiya 24 that the men traveled to CAR as tourists and the embassy was not aware of their presence in the country.

“Embassy diplomats have identified the bodies and are now working on transporting the them to Russia and collaborating with local authorities to investigate the killing,” she said.

The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) in New York has issued a statement calling for an investigation into the killing of the journalists.

CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, Angela Quintal says authorities in the Central African Republic, the Russian government and the United Nations should act swiftly to conduct comprehensive and transparent investigations into these deaths.

“Those responsible for the killing of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko must be brought to justice,” she said from Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Russian Investigative Committee said in a July 31 statement that it has also opened a criminal investigation into the killings.

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