Three Russian journalists were killed while investigating the private army funded by Evgeny Prigozhin, the man behind the Russian troll army suspected of meddling in the U.S. elections, The Bell reports.
Documentary film director Alexander Rastorguev, war correspondent Orkhan Dzhemal, and cameraman Kirill Radchenko were ambushed and killed in the Central African Republic. The men had gone there to shoot a documentary about Russian mercenary soldiers from a private army called Wagner, which is backed by Evgeny Prigozhin.
Dzhemal, Radchenko, and Rastorguev’s car was ambushed Monday night. The driver, who survived the attack, said that attackers emerged from the bushes, opened fire, killing all three journalists. Their bodies were found 23 kilometers from Sibut, in the north of the country, which is where Wagner’s military base is located. War correspondent Orkhan Dzhemal’s wife identified her husband’s body in a photograph.
The motive behind the attack could be robbery, local police claimed, according to The Bell.
Robert Mueller, head of the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, indicted 13 Russian citizens in February, 2018. Among them was Evgeny Prigozhin. According to the New York Times, Prigozhin became one of Russia’s richest men thanks to his proximity to the country’s president, Vladimir Putin.
According to Mueller’s indictment, Prigozhin was in control of the entity that financied the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll factory suspected of spreading fake news and propaganda online during the 2016 U.S. general elections.
As the New York Times noted, Prigozhin is considered to be one of Putin’s go-to oligarchs, mainly because he “is not afraid of dirty tasks,” like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in countries such as Syria, and Ukraine.
Lyubov Sobol of the Anti-Corruption Foundation told the New York Times the following.
“He is not afraid of dirty tasks. He can fulfill any task for Putin, ranging from fighting the opposition to sending mercenaries to Syria. He serves certain interests in certain spheres, and Putin trusts him.”
At the moment, it remains unclear whether Evgeny Prigozhin was, directly or indirectly, involved in the murders of Dzhemal, Radchenko, and Rastorguev, and, as The Bell noted, the murders are being treated by the local police as robbery gone wrong (the journalists were carrying expensive equipment), which remains the only theory so far.
Writing about the victims, The Bell described Orkhan Dzhemal as “one of Russia’s best known war correspondents.” He reported from Syria, Ukraine, Georgia, and Lybia.
Alexander Rastorguev was a documentary film director best known for his documentary on Russian 2012 protests.
Kirill Radchenko was a freelance photographer and cameraman.