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Russian journalists shot in C. Africa targeted in ambush: media org.

August 16, 2018

Three Russian journalists killed in Central Africa last month as they reported on Russian mercenaries there were targeted in an ambush, a media organisation that was backing them said Thursday.

The claim contradicts the version of events put forward by the Kremlin, which said initial evidence suggested the journalists were killed after resisting robbers.

The men — reporter Orkhan Dzhemal, director Alexander Rastorguyev and cameraman Kirill Radchenko — were killed on July 30 shortly after arriving in the war-torn country to report on a private army known as Wagner Group.

“The version of a simple theft as the criminals’ main motive is contradicted by many factors,” said the MBK media organisation, owned by exiled former oligarch and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

“The criminals were waiting…for the very car carrying Dzhemal, Rastorguyev and Radchenko,” the organisation said in a statement on its website, after sending investigators to the region.

MBK said it “does not exclude the involvement of Russian mercenaries” in the alleged ambush.

“A group of about ten people waited for several hours for the journalists’ car”, which had made a detour at the last moment, leading them to the spot of the killing.

Another car carrying “three armed white people, resembling mercenaries, and two Central Africans” passed through the same checkpoint as journalists shortly before them, the statement said.

The vehicle returned in the other direction an hour later.

In an earlier interview with CNN, Khodorkovsky rejected the theft-gone-wrong theory.

Wagner’s soldiers have fought in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, according to Western and independent Russian media reports as well as foreign governments.

Russia officially has military and civilian instructors in CAR to train local troops and experts have suggested they could be part of Wagner.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.