Russian journalists in Central African Republic may have been killed by mercenaries from Donbas

The people who killed the Russian documentary filmmakers Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko in the Central African Republic (CAR) last year may have flown in especially to do this from the part of the Donbas not controlled by Ukraine, and returned there after committing the murder. This theory was proposed by Pyotr Verzilov, a member of the Russian activist band Pussy Riot, who is carrying out his own investigation into the filmmakers’ deaths. 

“The people who carried out the operation flew in from the Donbas and flew back,” Verzilov told RTVI in an interview. He did not clarify precisely who may have killed the Russian journalists, but said that “this story is connected to Prigozhin’s companies”. 

“We think that this story is connected to Prigozhin’s companies. No one, apart from them, is interested in activity in Africa, and no one, apart from him, runs a private military company. This is similar to the handiwork of him and his boys,” Verzilov said. 

Provisional information indicates that members of the Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner who are stationed in the CAR were not involved in the killing, Verzilov said. According to the activist’s investigation, the armed groups that are active in the country are also not connected to the incident. 

In September 2018, Pyotr Verzilov was taken to hospital for loss of sight and speech. He was taken from Moscow to a clinic in Berlin, where he spent about two weeks. The German doctors and his relatives expressed the opinion that he may have been poisoned. Verzilov believed that the poisoning was connected to his investigation of the incident in the CAR. 

Journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, cameraman Kirill Radchenko and filmmaker Alexander Rastorguev were killed in the CAR in July 2018. They had flown to there on 27 July in order to film a documentary about the PMC Wagner’s activity in the African country for the Investigation Control Center, a project sponsored by exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The filmmakers were supposed to return to Russia on 18 August. 

“Wagner” is the nom de guerre of Dmitry Utkin, a former special forces commander in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate. The private military contractors in his company are reported to have fought in the Donbas and in Syria. Utkin himself was seen at a reception in the Kremlin in December 2016. 

Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian businessman with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. He has been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” due to the large number of catering contracts he receives from Kremlin officials. He is believed to be the organizer and financier of the internet “Troll Factory” and PMC Wagner, although he denies this.


  CAR, Russia, Prigozhin, Donbas, Putin