Three Russian Journalists Killed in Mysterious Circumstances

Photo from Voice of America

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that there were no signs of torture on the bodies of three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic this week.

The journalists – Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal – were ambushed and killed outside the town of Sibut. CAR officials said they were kidnapped by about 10 men wearing Turbans and speaking Arabic.

The trio had been working on an investigative story about a Russian private military contractor company as well as Russia’s interests in the local gold, diamond and uranium mining industry. The Russian company, Wagner, was sanctioned by the United States last year for its involvement with separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday the reporters’ bodies had gunshot wounds, but no apparent indication they had been tortured. Zakharova’s comments were reported by the state Interfax news agency.

Officials in Moscow had said earlier that CAR is a very dangerous place and that the government advises Russians against traveling there.

But the reporters’ colleagues have said the killing was not necessarily the result of a robbery, and could be linked to their investigative work.

Russian exiled opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who funded the journalists’ work, has vowed to investigate their deaths. Khodorkovsky, who now lives in London after spending 10 years in a Russian prison, says the reporters were looking into Wagner. The company is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur dubbed “Putin’s chef” for his close ties to the Kremlin.

In February, Prigozhin was indicted by a grand jury in the United States for his role in backing the “troll factory” in St. Petersburg known as the Internet Research Agency, which created fake social media accounts in the US in the run-up to the 2016 election.