Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic while investigating mercenary group

Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic while investigating mercenary group

Editor-in-chief of the Ekho Moskvy radio station Alexei Venediktov earlier told TASS that journalist Okhran Dzhemal, cameraman Kirill Radchenko and director Alexander Rastorguyev had been working on a documentary in the vehicle.

TsUR said the journalists were in Central African Republic (CAR) to investigate the activities of the so-called Wagner group, an organization of private military contractors that reportedly carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin's behalf in eastern Ukraine and Syria, according to Reuters.

The organization is financed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Russian oil tycoon who was jailed on corruption charges and now lives outside Russia.

The ministry said in a statement that the Russian Embassy in the Central African Republic had not been informed the journalists were in the country.

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the U.N. peacekeeping force in Central African Republic known as MINUSCA "found the bodies of three male foreigners with multiple gunshot wounds, along with an abandoned vehicle, 33 kilometers north of Sibut, in Kemo Prefecture".

The three journalists killed Monday night were identified by their ID cards as Russian nationals Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement translated by The New York Times.

Russia's foreign ministry issued a statement Tuesday identifying the victims and said that Russian diplomats were working with auto officials to find out what happened. From exile, he supports a number of civil society groups and media projects in his home country.

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"This was done in a very demonstrative fashion", he said, wondering why the attackers didn't bother to cover their tracks and left the journalists' driver alive. "The three journalists died instantly", he said.

An editor from the Investigation Control Center, Anastasia Gorshkova, told Russian media on Sunday that the journalists had tried to enter an estate housing members of the security company, but were told they must first procure accreditation from the country's Defense Ministry.

They were due on Monday to drive one and a half days along a poor road dotted with checkpoints to meet their fixer who was based in Bambari 400 km (250 miles) away, she was quoted as saying. "These were courageous 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.

Dzhemal, 51, was a respected Russian military correspondent who covered conflicts around the world.

Alexander Rastorguyev was a prominent director and reporter. He served as an election observer in Chechnya in March.

It plunged into violence after longtime leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance. His successor Touadera, whose government is supported by a United Nations force of 13,000 troops, controls little of the country beyond the capital Bangui.

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