News Brief

Russian Media Omit that Killed Journalists in CAR Were Investigating Kremlin-linked Mercenary Group

Three Russian journalists were gunned down in an ambush by armed militants outside of the town of Sibut in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday evening, jolting the international press and sending shockwaves through Russian media. But depending on where the story was reported, the details on the correspondents’ assignment thinned with most major Russian news outlets, many of which are fully or partially under government control, omitting that the journalists were investigating the activity of a Kremlin-linked mercenary group called the Wagner Group, financed by the billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s private chef,” and Russian mining operations in the country.

The veteran journalists, Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko, have worked for independent Russian media and were known for taking tough assignments. They traveled undercover to the CAR to film a documentary called “Russian Mercenaries” for the Investigation Control Center, according to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Putin-critic and former oil tycoon who was funding the project.

However the reporting of Russia’s three largest news agencies and one of the country’s most watched television networks Rossiya-1 presented the journalists as investigating local militias, not the Wagner Group, or only said that they were filming a documentary.

Andrei Konyakhin, an editor at the Investigation Control Center, told the Washington Post that the killings could be related to their investigation. “This was done in a very demonstrative fashion,” Konyakhin said of the attack which left the reporters’ driver alive. “If they could have just taken everything from them, why kill them?”

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that reports that the journalists were investigating private military companies was “nonsense” and that “I can only say that they traveled there as tourists.”

Russian investigators have opened a criminal case into the killings.