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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Dancing on journalists’ bones

Concerning the tragedy that befell the film crew of journalists Orhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko, and Alexander Rastorguev, who were killed in the Central African Republic on July 31, 2018, some things are obvious and proven, while others are still unclear
8 August, 2018 - 20:07

The obvious things include the very fact of the killing, its timing and location. Also, numerous witnesses have corroborated the purpose of the crew’s trip to the Central African Republic (CAR), it being making an investigative film dealing with the activities of Wagner’s private military company (PMC). It is the main thing that is unclear: who killed them and why.

The Russian official line has it all backwards. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova posted on Facebook: “I am hearing and reading this nonsense about some ‘investigations’ concerning PMCs in the CAR.” What exactly Zakharova regards as “nonsense” is not entirely clear: the statement that the journalists killed were conducting an investigation, or one about Wagner’s PMC being active in Central Africa? “There is nothing sensational about the presence of Russian instructors in the CAR, nobody has been hiding anything,” Zakharova asserted, and advised people to consult the MFA’s website. Following her advice, let us consult it. The MFA of the Russian Federation reported back in March 2018 that at the request of the president of the CAR, military and civilian instructors had been sent to that country. It has not a single word to say about Wagner’s PMC, which is just a common gang according to Russian law, since there is no law providing for PMCs in Russia, and therefore, any armed formation that operates outside the Russian uniformed services is just a gang and nothing else.

“What were they really doing in the CAR, what were their objective and tasks – these questions are still unanswered,” spokesperson of the Russian Federation’s MFA Zakharova continued her mendacious message, despite being undoubtedly well aware of the killed journalists’ objective which brought them to the CAR. In fact, she confirmed it, when recalling the “nonsensical” investigation of the PMC activities.

The day after the journalists’ killing, TV channel Russia 1 broadcast its 60 Minutes program, which featured a merry dance on the bones of the dead. Of course, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party was invited as the principal dancer. I have long stopped asking questions of media troops soldiers. These are people of a different profession that has nothing to do with journalism. However, they call themselves journalists and sometimes try to pretend they are. In this case, I became interested in how Olga Skabeeva and Evgeny Popov would explain the presence of Mr. Zh. (Vladimir Zhirinovsky) in a program discussing a killing of journalists. Is Zh. a journalist? Or is he a specialist in journalistic investigations? That man is known for his fierce hatred of journalists, cases of direct violence against them, and urging his guard live on the air to rape a journalist. Inviting Zh. to that program was a provocation as vile as, for example, inviting an open and known anti-Semite to the funeral of a rabbi.

And Zh. fully justified the confidence of Skabeeva and Popov. “There is no need to go anywhere!” Zh. screamed as soon as he was asked to speak. “Mikhail Khodorkovsky is an enemy of Russia, and we should not help his hirelings!” Zh. stated when responding to Zakharova’s statement that the MFA had stood ready to assist the journalists. After that, Zh. was flinging dirt at the dead for quite a long time: “Thrill addicts!”, “They were involved in illegal business! These were illegal diggers!”, “They went there to engage in illegal pursuits, and now the public has to pay for them?” Skabeeva tried in every way to show that she did not share Zh.’s stance. It looked as if Zh. was invited to her program by some strangers, completely unknown people, and she had nothing to do with it.

Zakharova emerged as a pure source of the most reliable information on the big screen in the studio, and reported the following. Firstly, “the official stated purpose of this group’s trip was tourism.” Secondly, “they carried expired journalistic certificates.” Thirdly, “they never contacted the MFA.” And fourthly, “had they declared their true purpose, everything could have been different.” “An exhaustive presentation!” was Skabeeva’s enthusiastic response. And she added: “We must understand who will be held responsible for it.”

Actually, the respondent defendant was already known. “Political scientist” Dmitry Abzalov said that “the problem is in the very approach” and asked indignantly: “Why was there no accreditation?” Following that, he pronounced the verdict: “People were thrown into this system!” Employee of Komsomolskaya Pravda Alexander Kots was more specific: “They had with them over 8,000 dollars. Security personnel can be hired for 300 dollars there.” Skabeeva immediately and understandingly exclaimed: “They economized on that business trip!” Employee of the VGTRK broadcaster Sergey Pashkov and employee of the Kommersant newspaper Maksim Yudin said, both claiming experience in the field, that the killed men’s failure to inform the Russian embassy in the CAR of their arrival was a fatal mistake.

I have no doubt that all the participants of the 60 Minutes program only pretended to be idiots when claiming to not understand the reasons why Dzhemal, Rastorguev, and Radchenko had preferred not to deal with representatives of Russia and minimize contacts with local authorities. It would be weird to go to investigate the activities of a gang which is closely connected with the Russian and local authorities, and ask for their approval regarding the purpose of the business trip at the same time. This is stated in some detail in the report of the Investigation Control Centre (ICC) on Khodorkovsky’s Facebook page: “Orhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko came to the CAR on tourist visas and were not accredited with the Russian embassy and consulate. This was due to the object of the investigation being Wagner’s PMC. If the hypothesis of the investigation team was correct and Wagner’s PMC acted in the CAR as a mercenary combat force with the unofficial support of the Russian authorities, contacting the Russian diplomatic bodies would have made the investigation meaningless.” End quote.

I would like to deal separately with no less idiotic advice to hire local guards. What guards? Local gangsters? Or members of the local security forces, who are likely to be connected with Wagner’s PMC? Or should the journalists have brought with them a platoon of armed fighters from Russia? Khodorkovsky answered in his blog those who directly or indirectly blame him for the deaths of the journalists: “As for security, it would have been strange, on my part, to impose my solution of this problem on professional war reporters with a great deal of experience. They were among the best specialists in Russia. All they needed was discussed directly with the editor-in-chief, and the resources needed were provided.”

Next, Khodorkovsky explained the reasons and extent of his involvement in the investigation during which the journalists were killed. “My personal involvement in the Russian Mercenaries project was limited to funding it. The project was developed by a group of professional investigative journalists and presented to me by the editor-in-chief of the ICC. I consider it important, because in this country, the government often likes to conceal its illicit affairs by referring to ‘private individuals.’ In Russia, mercenary activity is not regulated by law and non-transparent, and it is a criminal offense as well. However, top leaders of the state are not ashamed to speak approvingly about this practice, which makes the situation particularly dangerous. From now on, my involvement in the investigation will be much deeper.” End quote.

“Those who are born to crawl cannot fly.” People who have served the regime and lied all their lives cannot understand those who seek the truth. In particular, the truth about the regime’s crimes. I have no questions to ask of the employees of the VGTRK, Russia 1 TV channel, NTV, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and other Putinist media. I have one wish to convey to them, though: do not call Dzhemal, Radchenko, and Rastorguev your colleagues. It is very disgusting to hear.


By Igor YAKOVENKO, Moscow, special to The Day