Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic while investigating mercenary group

Russian journalists killed in Central African Republic while investigating mercenary group

A group of Russian journalists were reportedly killed on Monday in the Central African Republic while investigating a Russian mercenary group. 

The journalists were killed in an ambush carried out by unidentified assailants, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing local authorities. 

Russian online news organization Investigation Control Centre (TsUR) identified the three killed journalists as Orhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev and Kirill Radchenko, saying they were working on an assignment for the news outlet, Reuters reported. 

Russia's foreign ministry confirmed that three people with identification documents belonging to Dzhemal, Rastorguyev and Radchenko had been found dead.

TsUR said the journalists were in Central African Republic (CAR) to investigate the activities of the so-called Wagner group, an organization of private military contractors that reportedly carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in eastern Ukraine and Syria, according to Reuters.

Wagner is allegedly tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to CBS News. Prigozhin is also accused of owning Internet Research Agency, the trolling factory that targeted American voters in the 2016 election. 

Pirgozhin was sanction by the U.S. Treasury Department in March.

Local and international media have reported that Wagner has operated in CAR since Russia delivered light arms to the African country’s security forces this year, and the group has deployed hundreds of military and civilian instructors to train them, according to Reuters.

The journalists were killed on Monday night near the town of Sibut, the city's mayor, Henri Depele, told Reuters. He added that the reporters' driver survived the ambush. 

“According to the driver’s explanations, when they were 23 km [14 miles[ from Sibut ... armed men emerged from the bush and opened fire on the vehicle. The three journalists died instantly,” Depele said, according to the news agency.

Reuters added that TsUR is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Russian oil tycoon who was jailed on charges of corruption. Khodorkovky now lives outside of Russia. 

TsUR has published numerous investigations that have alleged corruption by senior members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's entourage, the news agency also reported.