Russians Indicted by Mueller Linked to Murder of Journalists in Central African Republic
A private investigation funded by exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky found that three journalists he once employed who were murdered in the Central African Republic were the victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by several Russians linked to Evgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The journalists were shot and killed in an ambush on July 30. Prigozhin was implicated in the investigation, as was Mikhail Burchik, who allegedly responsible for “operational planning, infrastructure and personnel” of the scheme to murder the three men. Both men were indicted by the Special Counsel’s office last year in connection with Mueller’s probe, which is focused on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Prigozhin and a dozen of his associates were indicted on charges that they manipulated American voters using fake political advertisements and social media posts which propped up the candidacy of President Donald Trump.
“These facts don’t leave any room for the theory that this was a simple robbery,” said Khodorkovsky, referring to the Russian government’s official explanation for the murders of conflict reporter Orkhan Dzhemal, documentary filmmaker Alexander Rastorguev, and cameraman Kirill Radchenko.
The three journalists arrived in the Central African Republic, which in recent years has been plagued by civil wars, to work on a film about Russian private military contractors. They were investigating the Wagner Group, a mercenary outfit identified as part of Prigozhin’s business empire. Prigozhin has denied any link to the Wagner Group, which in 2017 was sanctioned by the United States government, which alleged that it had “recruited and sent soldiers to fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine.”
The news was first reported by TIME, which was not able to verify the investigators’ findings independently. The investigative team linked the two men to the murders using private communications and data from cell phone towers in Africa, which they said they purchased from another entity. The data showed that Alexander Sotov, a Russian military instructor working in the Central African Republic, also worked to pull off the scheme with the help of Emmanuel Kotofio, a member of that country’s gendarmerie police force who was conducting surveillance on the three journalists. Khodorkovsky’s investigative team has refused to disclose where or how they purchased this information.
The Russian government’s response to the investigation has been rather understated. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry only said, “The investigation is ongoing.”