The Central African Republic is making arrangements for Russian investigators to access the site where three Russian journalists were killed on July 30, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow.
TASS reports that Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, speaking during a regular weekly briefing Thursday, said Moscow has been satisfied with the CAR response and authorities were planning security and other logistics for a Russian team to arrive. Currently, they are looking at laptop and mobile phone data and have asked the local mobile operator for records on any calls or messages.
“In response to a request by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the director of the national gendarmerie of the Central African Republic confirmed to our embassy in Bangui that the Central African law enforcement bodies are open and ready to cooperate with Russian investigators,” Zakharova said.
The Russians – photojournalist Kirill Radchenko, field director Alexander Rastorguyev, and war correspondent Orkhan Dzhemal – were killed in a road ambush near the town of Sibut.
They were fatally shot by what officials in CAR described as a group of local militants, with their hired driver the only survivor. Funeral services for the journalists were held earlier this week after their bodies were returned to Russia.
The three investigative experts were working on a Center for Investigation Management project, looking into the activities of Russian mercenaries in the CAR. The nature of their assignment has raised concerns that their deaths were related to the subject, particularly in light of the many documented deaths of Russian journalists under questionable circumstances.
Moscow has developed a close relationship with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, and readily admits to interest in mining concessions there. Russia also provides training, technical assistance and weapons to the chronically volatile nation, in compliance with a United Nations Security Council resolution allowing for an exception to the sanctions applied to CAR.
What’s less clear is the role of the illegal private military company Wagner Group, whose presence in CAR and other nations is not formally acknowledged by Russia. Zakharova did not answer questions about that presence, and again said they should not be directed to the foreign affairs ministry.
Image: Russia MFA file, Obruchevsky Press Center