More than a year-and-a-half after the murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (CAR) the case is still unresolved. Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandre Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko were murdered on July 31, 2018, while investigating the actions of the Russian military firm the Wagner Group in the CAR.
Russia has been present in the CAR for at least two years, sending over 175 advisers to help train the CAR’s army.
Russia and the CAR’s final reports stated that the journalists were gunned down by armed men in an attempt to steal their personal effects and their equipment. Neither country offered further specifics, and the nearly identical wording of the two reports raised suspicions that details were being deliberately withheld.
Independent investigators dispute the official account of their deaths, and has said the journalists were killed in an ambush by professionals. In a thorough report, they have compiled data drawn from photocopies of travel documents, lists of phone calls and GPS coordinates, pictures of conversations taken from social media accounts, and official documents. The report paints a far more sinister picture than that of a simple robbery.
The investigators say the journalists and their chauffeur took a sudden turn away from their destination and towards Sibut, near a CAR military base that has “Russian advisors” on site, suspected of being from Wagner. The checkpoint the journalists passed is normally blocked off except for gendarmes, the military, and local humanitarian missions. About a half hour-before the journalists passed by, a separate convoy driven by a gendarme named Emmanuel Tuagende Kotofio came through the same checkpoint. He returned going the other direction an hour later. What makes this fact pertinent is that this same convoy passed by the Sibut checkpoint the morning of the murders with three other Russians on board. Phone records collected by the investigators revealed that the gendarme and the three Russians had been in constant contact with one another.
Despite the thoroughness of this report, questions linger, and the CAR authorities have not responded to requests for comment or to the facts laid out in the report. The African liaison for Reporters Without Borders, following the disturbing accounts laid out by this investigation, has called for an independent international inquiry to discern the true fate of the three journalists.