Федеральное агентство новостей предлагает вниманию англоязычных читателей документальное расследование «Кто стоит за убийством российских журналистов в Центральноафриканской республике», опубликованное на сайте USA Really.
The Federal News Agency presents a documentary investigation, “Who is behind the murder of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic”.
Three Russian journalists — Alexander Rastorguev, Orkhan Dzhemal' and Kirill Radchenko - on July 28, 2018 arrived in the Central African Republic (CAR). Three days later, in the night of July 31, journalists were found dead on the road 23 km from Sibyu. According to the UN, this is one of the most dangerous areas of the country.
Journalists were sent to Africa by an organization called the Investigation Management Center (IMC). The IMC project was funded by runaway Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, previously convicted of serious crimes, including the organization of targeted assassinations.
— Being free I could be more useful to the society, to my family and, of course, to myself.
The purpose of the trip was the filming about some mythical private military company "Wagner" and its activity in Central Africa.
Note that in March 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia reported on the presence of Russian military instructors in the CAR in accordance with the decision of the UN Security Council. Also, with the permission of the UN, the republic officially received a shipment of small weapon from Russia.
The purpose of military instructors was not a secret: the training of local police and military personnel who must resist armed bandit groups that have been terrorizing the country for decades.
The Central African Republic is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. In 2018, the government controlled less than 20% of the territory there; the rest of the territory was divided between various armed groups. Therefore, it is possible to move around the country only accompanied by professional guards. Even in the capital, Bangui city, there are districts, not controlled by the police and the army. In one of these districts, called the "5th Kilometer District", in May 2018, a terrorist attack was carried out - a gang of Muslim extremists armed with machine guns and grenades shot the parishioners of the Christian Church of Notre Dame de Fatima with impunity.
Two months after the local church attack, appearing in Bangui, Alexander Rastorguev, Orkhan Dzhemal' and Kirill Radchenko three days until the very murder were moving without any guards at all. The travel organizers refused to provide journalists with armed accompaniment and did not even procure elementary protective devices, such as body armor. The only protection of journalists in Central Africa was the fake IDs of the UN mission members, made by the head of the IMC, Andrei Konyakhin.
The investigation of the Russian journalists' death is carried out by law enforcement agencies of the CAR. In connection with death of Russian citizens in accordance with the law, the investigation is conducted by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.
A car was inspected, witnesses in the cities of Bangui and Sibyu were interrogated, all cars were checked, both those that had passed through the Sibyu guard checkpoint and those which were in the area of the murder on the night of July 31 of last year. Nowadays, the investigation is taking a complex of investigative actions aimed at identifying the persons who have committed the murder of Russian citizens.
In August 2018, right after the deaths of journalists in the CAR, the FNA offered independent journalists to find out what had happened. Several journalists from various Russian media responded to the proposal.
Kirill Romanovsky, special correspondent for the FNA; Denis Tarasov, independent photo reporter and cameraman; Vladimir Malyanov, freelance journalist; Yulia Nikitina, correspondent for the Internet publication Fontanka.ru went to Central Africa. A few months later, in February 2019, due to numerous speculations about the death of Russian journalists in the CAR, the FNA decided to hire a private detective to conduct a thorough and professional investigation in Central Africa.
Private investigator Yevgeny Gvozdev was hired by the FNA in February 2019 to check for new information, circumstances, and clarify the facts, mentioned about the assassinations in the Central African Republic IMC group and speculations in many different media outlets.
«My name is Evgeny Gvozdev, I am a licensed detective with many years of experience in investigating. I was in the Central African Republic in March-April 2019. My task was to check all the circumstances concerning the arrival, movements, contacts and death of a group of Russian journalists in the CAR.
With a high degree of certainty, I can report today: during the investigation, not only the details of the murder itself became clear, but also the background, motives, perpetrators, organizers and contractors of this crime».
The IMC group consisting of journalist Orhan Jemal', director Alexander Rastorguev and cameraman Kirill Radchenko arrived in the Central African Republic on July 28, Saturday. Journalists came by air from Moroccan Casablanca to the capital of Central African Republic, Bangui.
«It's established that no one met the group at the airport. Journalists independently reached the National Hotel. After hotel assignment, they returned to the airport, since it was the only place at that time (around 3 p.m.) where they could buy SIM cards. They purchased SIM cards «Orange» (operator in France) and «Telecel» (operator CAR)».
The detective managed to get access to the records in the log book, and also interviewed Zagui Theusi, the manager of the National Hotel. Manager's answers clarified that the IMC journalists introduced themselves to the staff as traveling businessmen.
— When did the journalists check in the hotel and which rooms?
— Arrived on July 28, 2018, located in rooms 207, 208, 220.
— What documents did they provide when checking in, did they give phone numbers for communication?
— Showed passports, no phones for communication.
— Did they say they were journalists and what language did they speak (English, French or otherlanguages?)
— No, they said they were traveling as businessmen. The police card indicated that they were Russians.
It is proved that the IMC group entered the country on tourist visas. Journalists deliberately did not apply to the Russian embassy and did not inform the officials about their arrival and intentions at all.
«Russian journalists did not apply, either to the UN mission, or to the Ministry of Communication and the Media of the Central African Republic, to receive accreditation, or anywhere else to the official structures of this state. It was also found that journalists, unfortunately, did not use body armor, helmets, with the appropriate inscriptions that would confirm their affiliation to the press».
At the same time, they had false UN IDs, which were personally signed by the head of the IMC, Andrei Konyakhin, without any authority from the UN.
Later, the head of the UN Information Center in Moscow, Vladimir Kuznetsov, told Interfax that the UN stabilization mission in the CAR did not provide either a driver or a car for a film crew of Russian journalists.
The main question of the investigation is: for what purpose did Khodorkovsky's group actually arrive in the CAR, what sensational, interesting for the Russian or world public, they could shoot here?
Publicly, the following goals of the trip were announced in the press.
«Journalists were preparing the project “Russian mercenaries” together with the Investigation Management Center. They came to the Central African Republic to shoot a film about Wagner’s Russian private military company, whose fighters are supposedly present in the country».
«There are Russian instructors in the CAR». If someone from the investigators has a reason to suspect their involvement in PMCs, the investigation can be organized quite simply: you come to the base where they tell you that you need to get permission from the Ministry of Defense and come back to the base. We were at this base and after us there came the Al-Jazeera channel, that is sponsored by Qatar, and during the entire period of the war in Syria, the Jazeera reports were devoted to how wicked Russians are. Nevertheless, they are permitted to the base and everyone talks to them.
And people receive completely provocative tasks leading to a certain conflict which is then represented as some kind of scandal. The organization of the IMC investigation that cuts both ends and these ends are: 1) maintaining a negative attitude of the Western press to the presence of Russians in the CAR, and 2) provocative tasks leading to direct conflict between the group and the military. And this is not about the investigation, but about the scandal and hype. It's my personal opinion».
Why did Khodorkovsky send the IMC group to Africa?
This is the most interesting question. After all, Khodorkovsky has excellent contacts with the European political elite, including politicians and security chiefs of France. Namely, the French special services, by virtue of colonial traditions, have the best opportunities for any investigations in Central Africa.
However, the oligarch sent the Russian journalists who don't know the local or the French language to the CAR without any training and protection of. Moreover, it is the French special services that train and finance Islamic militants from the Séléka coalition, who control the area where Russian journalists were killed.
«During the investigation, I found a person who I can call the key player in this whole story. This man — Dominique Christophe, who is also known as Martin or Alpha, he is the head of one of the French private military companies. This person is known in the Central African Republic as a merciless militant, ready to execute any order.
It is he who is accused of organizing the terrorist attack in May 2018 in the church of Notre-Dame de Fatima. And it was this man who, according to the billing and witness testimony, played the role of a mysterious fixer named Martin, who could be a link between the IMC journalists and militants of the Séléka coalition».
Detective Gvozdev was able to interrogate the key witness in the CAR — a driver Douvokama Bienvenu. Throughout this interrogation, which was recorded on video in the presence of witnesses, the driver stated that he met with journalists at the Grand Café of Bangui on the evening of their arrival. At the same time, Bienvenu categorically refuted the speculations of the Western and some Russian media, which actively spread rumors that the local gendarmerie is involved in the Russian journalists murder.
— What is your job?
— I’m a driver.
— Do you know the TUAGENDE Kotofio?
— Yes, we have known each other for long time.
— What does the TUAGENDE Kotofio do?
— He is a gendarme, serving in the CAR gendarmerie.
— Have you served previously in the gendarmerie of the CAR?
— No I haven't served.
— Did you contact Tuagende Kotofio on the phone in the days when the Russian journalists were staying in the CAR? , if yes — what did you talk about?
— Yes I did call up. He asked me to take him to the village of Galofondo, he also asked me about the spare parts for a car and talked about personal issues.
— How close do you know TUAGENDE Kotofio?
— We met many years ago, we have friendly relations, and we've been addressing different requests to each other for many years.
— Did Tuagende Kotifo ask about the Russian journalists? Their plans and movements? Did you tell him anything about Russian journalists?
— No, he didn't ask about them; I told him that I was just a taxi driver. I did not tell him anything about journalists.
— Did you use the phone number +23675378291? If so, when did you start using it?
— The man named Yusuf gave me a telephone with this number. He offered me a job to drive the Russians who speak English. Journalists have contacted me on this phone and we agreed to meet at the Grand Cafe.
— When and where did you get this phone? Do you know the person who gave you this phone?
— It was in Bangui in the morning, a few hours before meeting the Russians. I know that Yusuf from South Sudan, saw him around 5th km, also heard that this person works with a Frenchman named Christophe, they also call him Alpha, he sometimes offers different jobs. He told me that the Russians would pay me well for transporting them.
— Did you use this phone for calls on personal questions not related to the transportation of Russian journalists?
— Yes, of course, mobile communication is expensive; I used this phone for personal calls.
— Can you describe this person? Yusuf?
— He is of an average height, wears a beard.
— How close do you know him and how did you get in touch?
— He met me not far from my house, and asked me to take him to the center, he offered me this job, I agreed.
«During of interrogation of a key witness to the murder of Russian journalists — their driver Douvokama Bienvenu, I noticed that he himself had mentioned the name of Dominique Christophe, the head of a private military company, an agent of French intelligence accused of numerous crimes in a number of African countries».
It is also known about him that he maintains contact with terrorists from the Séléka coalition or even controls some of their troops.
Despite the collapse of the colonial empire after World War II, France continued to govern the former colonies in Africa, controlling their elites and gaining access to environmental resources.
France began to build its colonial empire in Africa in the 19th century. As a result of the division of the continent with other European colonizers, France gained vast territories in the west and in the center of the continent. After World War I, France seized the possessions of defeated Germany, and already in the aftermath of World War II, the Allies handed over to her part of the former Italian colonies. As a result, the area of the French colonies reached 13.5 million square kilometers, and most of them fell on Africa.
But even after the collapse of the colonial system, France retained control of Africa. French soldiers guard the presidents, French officials work as state councilors at the government, and special services carry out other tasks. Young representatives of the African elite are allocated places in French universities, where they are recruited directly or through integration into joint business projects.
Oil from Gabon, uranium from Niger, gold, oil and uranium from Mali, diamonds, bauxite and cobalt from Congo, gold and manganese ores from Burkina Faso still provide the necessary resources for development to the French economy.
Will France, its special services and politicians like Russia return to this region? What can France do and what usually does to stop an undesirable opponent? We will answer this question a little later.
Shortly before the trip, journalists and their leaders created a Google document, where they gathered contacts of citizens who could help them with the investigation in the CAR. These contacts were also provided by French journalists, including someone named Rafael Vantar, an employee of the French radio RTL, and other French journalists.
On July 19, this document was the first to mention someone named Martin, who would later be called the «fixer of the group» in the CAR and the «worker of the UN».
Rodion Chepel', at that time a journalist for the TV channel «Dozhd», collaborating with the IMC, created the “Centralafrique” chat for correspondence with the group of IMC journalists.
«An interesting point: the contact of our driver is already in the list of contacts transmitted by French journalists. There it is noted that Bienvenu is not very good with English. So we will keep this in mind and, possibly, involve Martin for the translation,”Rodion Chepel' wrote in the Centralafrique chat on July 26».
Thus, starting from the moment of preparing and planning the trip of Russian journalists to the CAR and at all its subsequent stages, French citizens actively meddled in the situation.
But why should the French meddle in the shooting of a documentary film, the content of which is no interest to them, since the activities of military instructors in the CAR are public and well known? What new things can the French secret services that are like masters in Africa learn about this?
Since the war in Indochina, French intelligence has earned the doubtful title of the roughest and most brutal in the world. For a long time, the former French colonies in Africa were the sphere of interest for the special services of these countries. As a result, the French learned how to deal with terrorists (the arrest of Carlos Sanchez (The Jackal) and the defeat of the Basque organization ETA are on their account), but became addicted to the shocking methods of work.
Here are just a few scandals in which the intelligence of the Fifth Republic featured:
— In 1985, two employees of the French special services were accused of undermining the ship «Rainbow Warrior» owned by Greenpeace in the New Zealand port of Auckland. The motive - the vessel prevented the nuclear tests of France. As a result of the attack, the Greenpeace photographer died, the organizers of the crime were never punished.
— In 1999, the trial of the French mercenary Bob Denard, accused of killing the president of the Comoros Islands, Ahmed Abdullah and other regional leaders, was held. The list of terrorists' «missions»: Indochina, Morocco, Algeria, Central African Republic, Yemen, Kurdistan, Angola, Comoros, Benin. These are the traditional zones of interest of France, and it was practically proved that the main contractor of Denard was French intelligence.
«Investigation in Central Africa, revealed witnesses who were familiar with the French militant Dominique Christophe. So, I interrogated a woman who told that she was dating Christophe».
— Do you know Dominique Christophe Raineteau?
— Yes, this is her boyfriend. She saw his mobile phones with stickers «Ali», «Martin» and «Alpha».
— How do you know that he called himself Martin?
— He had several phones, there was a piece of paper stuck on the back of one of the phones… So he introduced himself Martin. The woman admitted that Dominic Christophe could be associated with the gangs, as he had repeatedly met with the leader of an Islamic gang, named Fores.
— What do you know about the connection of Dominique Christophe Raineteau with the gangsters, including those from «Séléka»?
— At 5 km, he often meets with them, sometimes calls and goes with Fores.
— What do you know about the murder of Russian journalists?
— I heard only that they were killed.
Detective Gvozdev in March 2019 was able to repeat the entire route of the group of journalists of the IMC, moving literally in their tracks. At each point recorded by the investigator, he interviewed local residents who were carefully recorded on paper and on a video camera.
It has been established that, since the group of IMC journalists left the capital of the republic, Bangui, throughout its movement, the group was in fatal danger. This is due to the fact that they moved near the territories not controlled by the government forces.
Village headmen of Sibyu-Decoa roads confirm the presence of armed Arab-speaking men who live in the jungle along the roads. These people periodically go out on the road for highway robbery,
The detective conducted interviews with gendarmes and soldiers at the last point from which the IMC group left for the place of their death.
A traffic plan of the group is known: on July 30, the driver picked up the journalists at the capital hotel National, after that the whole group drove to the side of the village of Sibyu. On the way, a stop was made in the village of Ngunda, and then the journalists made a stop in the village of Damara, where videos of local merchants were made.
The group approached the northern checkpoints of Sibyu in the direction of the city of Decoa at about half past 6 p.m. At the first checkpoint, gendarme Irene Agnes checked the documents and, having heard the answer that these are the journalists from Russia, accredited with the UN, she allowed them to go on.
— You are a gendarme and served in a checkpoint in the city of Sibyu on the 30th of July, 2018, is that correct?
«I am a gendarme of BINGUIMALE Irene Agnes, born July 10, 1985 in Bambari, Central Africa.
I was assigned to serve from July 27 to July 31, 2018 at a remote checkpoint in the village of KANGA, located at the 3rd kilometer on the Decoa route. July 30, 2018 at about 6-7 p.m. the Mitsubishi car arrived at the checkpoint. The driver was transporting three whites. I asked him who these people were and he replied that they were journalists from Russia. I asked them where they were going he replied that they were going to Decoa. I asked if they had a business trip permit, for which they gave an accreditation letter and I read it. After that, I let them pass, because everything was fine.
At the next military checkpoint, the car of journalists was stopped by servicemen of the national army and refused to let the group pass. The head of the checkpoint, Senior Corporal Romarik contacted the main base in Sibyu and asked him to hand over the phone to a Russian instructor, who forbade journalists to pass through the checkpoint due to insecurity on this road, especially at night. However, journalists, according to witnesses interviewed by a detective, in a rude manner and in a raised voice said that no one had the right to prohibit them from moving at the time they need. They were again warned about the danger and offered to spend the night in the city, but they ignored the warnings and passed the checkpoint».
— Are you the Senior Corporal Feikuto Romarik?
«I am Sergeant Feikuto Romarik, the commander of the checkpoint on the northern traffic control barrier in the direction of Décoa. At 6:25 p.m., when the blue colored Mitsubishi pick up with three passengers, citizens of Russia, and a driver - a citizen of the CAR arrived at the traffic control barrier. In response to my demand, the driver said that they were going to Decoa. According to my information, when this happens, they should come to our base for registration. I called Junior Lieutenant Ngaicumon to report on the situation. I told the lieutenant to clarify their military compatriots from our base whether they have permission and if they know their movements.
This officer gave the phone to the Russian-speaking translator from our unit, and I gave my phone to a passenger who introduced himself as the head of the mission of journalists, who was sitting in the cabin with the driver, so that they could talk to each other. Subsequently, the head of the mission gave me the phone back. They were talking in raised voices. The head of the mission took out the documents and told me that they had accreditation from the UN and that we didn't have the right to detain them.
I warned them about danger of moving on this road at night because they could be attacked by armed bandits and insurgents, and offered to spend the night in the city of Sibyu. The journalists replied that they were in a hurry and they needed to go. Then we raised the barrier and they drove through. I clarify that we are not allowed to require documents from foreigners, even humanitarian or diplomatic. We can't even search their cars. The next morning, at about six o'clock, the civilians, including two village elders, arrived to tell the news about the murder of Russian journalists by unidentified armed men».
After leaving Sibyu, at the 23rd kilometer on the road to Décoa, a car with journalists was stopped by Arab-speaking armed men, who pulled out almost all journalists' belongings, and then started shooting. The driver managed to escape in his car, taking advantage of the moment when the attackers concentrated on Russian journalists and their property.
The testimony of gendarmerie officers, military personnel and local residents clearly refute all conspiracy speculations of the Western media. Journalists arrived in the most dangerous region of a dangerous country, where robbery and violence are the normality. The attack on them was only a matter of time. Locals from the villages next to the place where the murder occurred say that even a hike to the river for water can be fatal here.
They even can't go to get some food. Because they are constantly under fire there, they can shoot not only people, but also animals can be shot.
The editorial staff also received transfers of police reports from the Central African Republic, describing the situation in the summer of 2018 in areas north of Bangui, where Russian journalists went. Every day in these reports dozens of killed, robbed, mutilated residents of the country or rare foreigners there are reported.
Recall, May 2014, a 26-year-old Camille Lepage, a French journalist, was shot dead from an ambush in the Bouar district in the west of the CAR. In the car with Lepage there were four more accompanying, all were shot from ambush. Over the past five years, none of the criminals were found.
The Lepage case is mentioned in an article about the murder of Russian journalists in the Central African edition of Palmarès Centrafrique, which claims the involvement of the French authorities in her death.
The time has come to ask the most important question: how did the journalists find themselves on a dangerous highway and who is really the mysterious fixer Martin - aka Dominic, aka Ali, aka Christophe Raineteau.
The fact that Martin is a key figure in this matter can be concluded from the request, which, according to our information, sent the Investigation Committee of Russia to France. The request was made in connection with suspicions against French citizen Dominique Christophe Raineteau.
On the night of 4 to 5 February 2019, French citizen Christophe Raineteau was detained in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Earlier, on May 30, 2018, CAR President Fausten Arcange Touadera, on France 24 TV channel, accused Christophe Raineteau of organizing the terrorist attack on Fatima’s cathedral, prepared by the armed Islamist group Seleka and claiming 26 lives, including the local archbishop.
It was the terrorism charges that became the basis for the request of the Central African Republic to the authorities of Madagascar, where Christophe Raineteau was at that time.
Raineteau is accused of 11 counts in the CAR, among which are «terrorist attacks, arson attack, murder, organization of bandit groups, infringement against State Security, insult of the head of state, revolution, illegal possession of weapons and ammunition, call to hatred and civil disorder».
However, Christoph was never extradited to the CAR authorities. The French authorities prevented this. Detained on the basis of a request from Interpol and wanted by the Central African Court, Christoph Raineteau calmly sat out in the French embassy until he was taken home. This became possible thanks to the agreement of Madame Voulaig Aineney, the French ambassador to Madagascar, who did everything so that prisoner Christophe Raineteau was under the protection of the French embassy and departed for Paris several days later.
«Martin is the key figure of this investigation, because he, judging by the correspondence of the IMC journalists, took part in the planning of the expedition. At the same time, a person by name or under the nickname Martin, who worked and traveled a lot in Africa, is familiar to me. I gave his telephone number to the leader of the IMC as a contact of the person knowing and understanding the region. But who was on the other side of the phone, remains a mystery to me.
I would like to talk to Dominique Christophe Raineteau. Despite the fact that I spoke to my Berlin colleague almost six years ago, I would be able to identify whether this is a person or a fake figure of the French special services. But the problem is that the French authorities are currently hiding this person».
In order to understand why the French authorities are so jealous of Russia's participation in any process in Africa, to read the French press would be enough.
Here is the largest French TV channel admits that the French authorities see Russia as a strong competitor in Africa, but they hide it.
«Officially, France sees no problems with the Russian presence in the Central African Republic. But in the corridors, the authorities confirm that the climate is «tense», and French diplomatic representatives «are no longer invited to the protocol of all ceremonies» when Russia participates in them».
The newspaper of the largest media group "Bayard" exacerbates tension.
«The marked increase of the Russian presence in the CAR. Among the goals of Moscow is the weakening of the French presence in Africa».
And here is a series of articles in the French press under the heading:
«Khodorkovsky promises to find those who killed his journalists in the Central African Republic».
The press recalled Russia's attempts to stop the war in Central Africa. With the participation of Russia in the capital of Sudan, a neighbor to the Central African Republic, at the end of August 2018, negotiations took place between the leaders of the largest armed groups in the Central African Republic, which were part of the opposing coalitions of Séléka and Antibalaka.
But shortly before the negotiations in the CAR, three Russian journalists sent by Khodorkovsky were killed. And France insists on another version of the negotiation process - under its control.
When our film was almost ready, we received information from a source from Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s company, who had previously supplied us with reliable information about the activities of the exiled tycoon. The source said that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Dominic Christophe Raineteau are acquainted and that he has relevant evidence of this.
The murder of Russian journalists has been carefully worked out for a long time and, the assassination plan included the selection of ideal victims, place and time.
In this case, the motives of the organizers are:
— Dominique Christophe received money from Khodorkovsky and protection from the French special services;
— French special services tried to harm Russia’s activities in Africa in order to remove a competitor.
But Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s motives remained unclear until we received information from our source. Khodorkovsky had the following motives: to discredit any activity of Russia abroad, particularly in Africa, and the revenge directed at the Russian Federation.