The highly publicized murder of Russian investigative journalists in the Central African Republic may be directly connected to the recently founded Patriot private military company (PMC) which operates in the country,reported the Dozhd TV channel, citing its own sources in the Russian Defense Ministry, a mercenary from the Patriot PMC, and an veteran intelligence officer acquainted with a Patriot fighter.
All of the sources believe that the murder was motivated by the research which Orkhan Dzhemal was carrying out, and that Rastorguev and Radchenko were merely “extras”.
The veteran Russian intelligence officer who claims to know one of the people who killed the journalists told Dozhd his theory. He believes that the assassin team was comprised of three people with the support of another two teams – a support group and a cover group. First, they were given the “mission to eliminate”, and only later were they ordered to stage an attack by local robbers.
“This is why ‘men in turbans’ appeared, who robbed the journalists of their cameras and video cameras. People were moved from one place to another, glass was broken, and there were signs of a struggle,” the source claims.
All three teams were part of the Patriot PMC, which was displeased by Dzhemal’s investigation into unrecorded Russian arms shipments to the Central African Republic, the source believes. He also claims that the company falls under the Russian Defense Ministry, and is staffed by regular Russian soldiers.
“According to Dozhd’s correspondents in the Defense Ministry, FSB, veteran organizations and among the mercenaries, the Wagner PMC is losing influence; it is being replaced by new military companies, of which the main one is Patriot,” the TV channel reported.
The information is partially confirmed by the fact that the Investigation Control Center (ICC) for which the journalists were filming a documentary on the Wagner PMC, had previously begun talking about new PMCs which were acquiring greater control in Africa, whereas Wagner is based in Syria and the Donbas.
Judging by the June correspondence with Orkhan Dzhemal, which a source in the former ICC gave to Dozhd, the journalist understood that central Africa was no longer controlled by Wagner.
Three Russian journalists who were filming a documentary on militants from the Wagner PMC in the Central African Republic were killed earlier this year. Journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, filmmaker Alexander Rastorguev, and cameraman Kirill Radchenko were working on a joint project with the ICC, which is funded by Russian oppositionist Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
This was later confirmed by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Another theory to explain the incident is that the journalists had photographed gold mines which were being leased to Russia in exchange for military assistance. In this context, it is supposed that the journalists were killed by PMC members in order to avoid publicity surrounding the situation with the mines.
Others claim that the local rebel group Séléka was behind the killing.
In spring and summer, a number of news outlets, including the radio station France Europe 1, Le Monde, and Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, reported that Wagner militants are protecting Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and training government troops.
Russia has been providing assistance to Touadéra’s regime since 2017, providing weapons and military equipment. Five military specialists and 170 so-called “civilian instructors” were also sent to the Central African Republic. Certain journalists assert that these specialists and instructors are none other than Wagner militants who took part in combat in Syria and in the Donbas.