On 30 July 2019, on the one-year anniversary of the murder of the three Russian citizens Aleksandr Rastorguev, Orkhan Dzhemal and Kirill Radchenko in the Central African Republic (CAR), the country’s authorities announced that they were suspending their investigation. The official document containing the results of the investigation stated that, “The journalists were stopped by an armed gang of unidentified persons, who then cowardly killed them and stole some of their belongings”.
In its own investigation the Dossier Center was able to establish that: the version of events that the deaths were the result of a “typical” robbery is invalid; Rastorguev, Dzhemal and Radchenko were put under surveillance; and that the murder was premeditated and carried out by professionals. What’s more, it became clear that over the course of the last year no action had been undertaken by CAR law enforcers to investigate the crime, and that they had ignored or concealed the evidence they had received.
The Dossier Center acquired documents from the investigation, initiated by CAR’s national gendarmerie, implying that investigators had already established the following by the beginning of August 2018:
1) the murder had been planned in advance (i.e. it was a trap set specifically for the Russian citizens);
2) those who carried out the murder were familiar with the victim’s itinerary;
3) the murder was premeditated (“their goal was to kill the victims”);
4) the killers were professionals.
The witness statements acquired by the Central African investigators contained a number of facts that for some unknown reason did not make it into the official investigation.
For example, one witness stated in a testimony from 18 August 2018 that he saw a grey Mitsubishi without a number plate at the scene of the crime [23km away from Sibiu on a road leading to Dekoa] shortly before the murder took place. In their report, CAR investigators concluded that, “The unregistered car could not be found”.
It is worth noting that, according to a FACA soldier questioned by the Dossier Center, around 19:00 a car driving behind the murdered journalists crossed the exit checkpoint at Sibiu. Gendarme Emmanuel Tuagende Kotofio was in the car. The Dossier Center established that the latter was in continuous operational contact with the journalist’s driver Bienvenue Duvokama.
The name Tuagende Kotofio appeared in one of the statements of the witnesses question by CAR gendarmes. For example, the questioning of witness 3, a gendarme on duty on the Sibiu-Dekoa road, revealed that on the morning of the day of the murder the car belonging to gendarme Tuagende drove through the checkpoint carrying three Russian citizens. A second car carrying Central Africans drove through after them. The car was being driven by gendarme Sanze (who appears in Kotofio’s Facebook friend list [Dossier Center note]).
According to witness 3, immediately after the murder, between 21:00 and 21:30, a Toyota Hilux, which the witness claims belongs to an organisation called Plan International, drove past the village. The gendarmerie’s report notes that – like in the incident with the grey car without a number plate – it was not possible to locate the car.
It may seem strange that CAR investigators are stopping the investigation and asserting that the murder was “the result of a robbery”, despite knowing about the planned and premeditated nature of the murder of Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko and Aleksandr Rastorguev. However, their response makes more sense, if one considers how diligent employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “Company” had been when thinking up this version of events in time for the day following the murder.
The key aim of this report is to analyze a crime committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) on July 30, 2018, the victims of which were three Russian journalists – Aleksandr Rastorguev, Orkhan Dzhemal and Kirill Radchenko.
The team’s trip to Africa was organized in the context of creating a documentary film for the Investigation Control Center (a project funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky) on the activities of Private Military Company «Wagner», affiliated with Kremlin insider and entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin. The version put forward by CAR authorities, which is supported by the Russian Foreign Ministry, states that the murders were committed by a «group of people in turbans speaking Arabic» with the aim of robbing [the journalists].
In August 2018, the Dossier Center initiated its own independent investigation into the circumstances of the incident. In order to collect documentary and digital data on the crime, stringers were employed in CAR, as well as two international teams of professional investigators who traveled to the country.
The data gathered by the Dossier Centre have revealed the total inadequacy of the official explanation. The investigation has arrived at the following conclusions:
In June 2019, lawyers of the victims (relatives of the murdered journalists) submitted a petition to the RF Investigative Committee to have an article – entitled Chronicle of a Well-Prepared Death and published by Novaya Gazeta – included in the materials of this criminal case. The article was written on the basis of an investigation of the murders by the Dossier Centre. Documents appended to the petition confirmed that Russian citizens Valery Zakharov and Aleksandr Sotov may possess information of importance to the investigation. The petition requesting that Zakharov and Sotov be questioned were not granted.
The Dossier Center expresses the hope that this report will facilitate a revision of Russia’s Investigative Committee’s position on this matter.
The first section of the report provides a chronology of events preceding the murders of the journalists in CAR and a reconstruction of the crime. The second section consists of an analysis of the numerous examples of the inadequacy of the official explanation by the CAR and Russian Federation (RF) law enforcement bodies. The third section describes the activities of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» in Africa, which has been studied by the Dossier Centre as part of the investigation into the murders of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko.
In December 2016, a project called Investigation Control Centre (ICC) was launched under Andrey Konyakhin, former editor-in-chief of the Kommersant website. Among the other project participants were deputy editor-in-chief Anastasia Gorshkova (former deputy editor-in-chief of Forbes.ru), journalist Sergey Kanev, multimedia editor Anastasia Kulagina, and other journalists.
At the initiative of Andrey Konyakhin, in 2018 the ICC team started work on a documentary film on the activities of the well-known Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin. The project team was later joined by producer Rodion Chepel (previously a reporter for Dozhd TV) who had already worked with the Investigation Control Center before. In July, the ICC carried out under-cover filming at a training base of Private Military Company «Wagner» near the village of Molkino just outside Krasnodar. Previously, in May 2017, the ICC team had published an investigation into the murder of 25-year-old Dmitry Sokolov in 2004, in which the assumption was made that Yevgeny Prigozhin was personally involved in that crime.
In the spring of 2018, the Investigation Control Centre agreed with military correspondent Orkhan Dzhemal, film director Aleksandr Rastorguev and cameraman Kirill Radchenko on the creation of a documentary film on the activities of PMC Wagner in Syria and Africa.
The ICC team first met Aleksandr Rastorguev and Orkhan Dzhemal to discuss the project in April 2018, before meeting Kirill Radchenko in May 2018. ICC had initially planned to carry out filming in Syria and Sudan where, according to a number of media channels, Russian mercenaries from PMC Wagner were active. To seek out contacts, ICC was twice recommended (by journalist Abbas Juma and executive producer of the German film forum KinoHafen Elena Shulkina) to use Kirill Romanovsky, a special correspondent for RIA FAN.
In May 2018 it was decided to postpone the working trip to Syria. At the same time, the ICC journalists found a post on the Vinsky Forum with photographs of Russian instructors’ tents at a military base in the town of Berengo in the Central African Republic. The journalists were also intrigued by media reports about companies affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin being involved in diamond and gold mining in CAR.
On June 29, Romanovsky promised ICC’s editor-in-chief Andrey Konyakhin that he would provide the team with a fixer – a person who could accompany the journalists on their trips around CAR and help deal with any problems that might arise (see Attachments C.2.a, C.2.b, C.2.c, C.2.d).
On July 7, Romanovsky sent Konyakhin the telephone number of «UN worker Martin», who was to act as their fixer, together with a voice message (see Attachment C.3).
Romanovsky asked Konyakhin to communicate with «Martin» via WhatsApp using text messages (instead of calls), explaining that signal was poor where «Martin» was located. Neither ICC staff nor the journalists ever managed to speak to «Martin» by phone – they were only able to exchange text messages.
Kirill Romanovsky maintained that «Martin» was in Bambari (approximately 376 km from Bangui, capital of the CAR), where the journalists were planning to spend several days filming gold mines. «Martin» was to organize their accommodation and provide a driver. Rodion Chepel arranged with him that the team would be provided with a house to stay in at Bangui before leaving for Bambari (see Attachments C.4.a, C.4.b, C.4.c, C.4.d, C.4.e).
They agreed that the cost of renting the accommodation in Bangui would be USD 1,850 for a scheduled stay of two weeks. Interestingly, «Martin» did not provide the address of the house and it is still not known whether the house existed at all.
The daily rate for the driver-translator provided by «Martin» was to be USD 90 in Bangui and USD 150 outside Bangui.
On July 9, Rodion Chepel created a group chat on Telegram under the name Centrafrique and simultaneously set up an online document entitled «ICC Contacts» on Google Docs, where he began to enter contacts for the trip to CAR (see Attachment C.5).
In the chat, logistics issues were discussed and, in particular, a list of the required equipment was given (see Attachment B0).
On July 10, Anastasia Gorshkova sent the Centrafrique group confirmation that tickets had been booked to CAR (see Attachment B1). The trip was scheduled from July 27 to August 17.
On July 27, 2018 Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko flew from Moscow to Casablanca (Flight AT0221 from Moscow (DME) to Casablanca – Casablanca Airport (CMN) at 10:25 Moscow time), where they were to stay until the evening of July 29 before flying to Bangui.
On the evening of July 27, after the team had arrived in Morocco, Rastorguev stated in the general chat that due to a change of flight they would be leaving for Bangui that night (see Attachment C.6).
Dzhemal also confirmed that they would arrive in Bangui at 07:25 local time on July 28. Consequently, due to a sudden flight change, the team arrived in CAR two days earlier than planned (see Attachment C.7).
As can been seen from the Centrafrique chat, after the team reported its change of plans, Rodion Chepel tried to contact «Martin» via WhatsApp, but «Martin» did not read the message. As a result, the driver did not meet the journalists when they arrived in CAR (see Attachment C.9).
According to Flightradar24 data, the aircraft on which Dzhemal, Rastorguev and Radchenko arrived landed in Bangui at 07:18 local time on July 28 (see Attachment C.10).
At 08:19, Radchenko reported in the chat that they had crossed the border but were unable to contact the driver (see Attachment C.11).
Because the driver had not met the team, who were relying on his help in renting the house, the journalists had to find a hotel for themselves. At 09:30, Radchenko wrote that they had checked into the Hotel National (see Attachment C.12).
According to Paulette Payao, a member of staff at the Hotel National, at 15:00 the Russian journalists asked at the registration desk where they could buy SIM cards and she advised them to go to the airport. At 18:27, Dzhemal wrote their local phone numbers – his (+236755883061) and Rastorguev’s (+23672778357) in the Centrafrique chat (see Attachment C.16).
Тelephone conversation printouts obtained by the Dossier Center show that Rastorguev phoned the driver Bienvenue from a local number (+23675378291) at 17:22 (see Attachment A1).
He then sent him four SMS messages (17:28 –17:31). Bienvenue called Rastorguev at 18:12, after which Rastorguev called him back at 18:14 and 18:16. At 18:08 and 18:09 Bienvenue twice tried to phone Kirill Radchenko’s Russian number (but both times made a mistake with one digit and called the wrong number).
On the basis of messages in the Centrafrique chat, it can be accurately determined that the team met the driver between 17:26 and 19:49. The earlier time was when Kirill Radchenko sent the message «We should pick up the driver now» (see Attachment C.17), and the later was when Rastorguev reported their plans, which had evidently been approved after meeting Bienvenue (see Attachment C.18), – i.e. to extend the hotel booking and go to Berengo on the 29th, after which on Monday [July 30] they would go to meet «Martin» in Bambari.
According to a statement by hotel worker Pattern Namfio, on July 29 at around 10 in the morning, the team were stopped by two policemen because they had been filming next to the Hotel National. This is also confirmed by a report from Kirill Radchenko in the Centrafrique chat: Radchenko wrote that the team had to pay a bribe of 65,000 West African Franks to the policemen (see Attachments C.19.a, C.19.b).
After that incident, the group set off for Berengo military base (around 75 km from Bangui), to which they were not admitted as they had no accreditation from the CAR Ministry of Defense. Kirill Radchenko reported in the Centrafrique chat that the team was spoken to «not by an ordinary soldier, but someone a bit older» who spoke Russian and English. He was presumably the man who refused to admit the journalists to the base. Radchenko also noted that Bienvenue was the only one allowed into the base to negotiate access for the team.
The driver told the team that he had spoken with a Russian representative, who took his contact data and promised to get in touch with them within five days to give them the address for obtaining accreditation (see Attachments C.20.a, C.20.b, C.20.c).
A local resident stated that at approximately 14:00 the journalists were in the village of Pissa, not far from the Berengo military base. In Pissa they did some filming.
At around 18:00, the group returned to the hotel, as confirmed by correspondence between Orkhan Dzhemal and his girlfriend Olesya Emelyanova, to whom he sent video footage taken in the village of Pissa, at 17:58 on WhatsApp. At 21:02, Kirill Radchenko wrote in the general chat that the journey to Bambari, where they would go the next day to meet «Martin», would take a whole day. At 22:11, Radchenko sent his last message to the Centrafrique group (see Attachments C.21.a, C.21.b).
On July 30, the journalists were to set off for Bambari to meet «Martin» and planned to stay there until August 3. The last message from Aleksandr Rastorguev to Susanna Baranzhiyeva was sent at 11:51 Bangui time. A message from Baranzhiyeva to Rastorguev, sent at 11:52, was never read.
According to a statement by Hotel National employee Cynthia Pepu, at approximately 11 in the morning, the journalists drove off from the hotel – they had left their suitcase behind at the registration desk and said that they would be back for it on August 3. The hotel’s security guard stated that the Russians had left at 12:00. According to telephone conversation printouts, at 10:46 Orkhan Dzhemal phoned from a local number (+23675883061) the driver Bienvenue, probably to arrange the trip (see Attachment A1).
The last online activity by the team was recorded at 15:42 on July 30 (Kirill Radchenko used Google Translate on his phone) (see Attachment C.23).
A reconstruction of the events of 30th carried out by the Dossier Center on the basis of statements from interviewed witnesses concludes, with a high degree of probability, that at around 18:30 the team arrived in the town of Sibut, which has a FACA (CAR armed forces) base where Russian military instructors are present. For some unexplained reason, instead of the planned trip to Bambari in the east, their car turned north. On the road leading to the town of Dekoa, Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Rastorguev and Aleksandr Radchenko were killed.
To reconstruct the events of the night of July 30–31, when the Russian journalists were murdered, the Dossier Center gathered statements from witnesses who were at the FACA checkpoint on the way out of Sibut TOWARDS Dekoa. It must be noted that movement through the checkpoint is restricted at night (sunset on July 30 was at 18:02) and is generally permitted only to the local gendarmerie, the army and humanitarian missions. According to the statements from FACA soldiers (names held by the Dossier Center), the journalists’ car crossed the checkpoint at around 19:00. FACA servicemen stated that they had let the journalists’ car through because they had contacted the military base in Sibut and received orders from the Russian instructors to let the team through.
Witnesses at the checkpoint also state that immediately before the journalists’ car, the checkpoint was crossed by a SUV at 19:00. The FACA soldiers recognized one of the passengers of the first vehicle as gendarme Emmanuel Touaguende Kotofio, who was a FACA instructor and had previously trained them. They also noticed that there were three Caucasians, presumably Russians, in the car with Kotofio. The car carrying the gendarme drove back through the checkpoint at around 20.00.
According to evidence from Tondo Jule Aimé, the elder of the village of Kpakou, at 20:45 the residents of the village were awoken by Bienvenue, who reported an armed attack. The driver stated that he had managed to flee the scene in a Mitsubishi L200. Bienvenue told the elder that bandits belonging to the Seleka group had wounded him in the stomach. The bandits had ordered the Russians to get out of the vehicle, the journalists had tried to resist and Bienvenue himself had hidden in the car. According to the elder, at around 21:00–21:30 a car belonging to the charity Plan International – an international NGO that works to guarantee human rights – passed the village. The charity’s staff assured him that they would notify MINUSCA in Dekoa of what had happened, but after their departure there was no sign of MINUSCA in the village that night. At around 05:00, the village elder went to the FACA checkpoint in Sibut, where the soldiers told him that they had advised the journalists against traveling at night. They had not heeded the advice, and said that they needed to get to Dekoa, after which they would come back and go to Bambari. According to the elder, he also informed the gendarmerie of what had happened (see Attachments B.21.a, B.21.b, B.21.c, C.24).
The MINUSCA report states that at around 06:00 a Burundian battalion discovered three bodies at a distance of 4 metres to the right of the road leading towards Dekoa (roughly 23 km from Sibut), between the villages of Kene and Kpakou.
According to the report, the murders occurred at around 20:45 on July 30. The MINUSCA report also contains photographs from the crime scene, showing the bodies of the victims and the Mitsubishi L200 vehicle with Cameroonian transit registration number 033723 (see Attachment B4).
The Dossier Center has made numerous attempts to obtain further information about the vehicle but has been unsuccessful because recording of vehicles on the Cameroon – CAR border is inconsistent. As the victims were not UN employees, all further actions to investigate the incident were handed over to the gendarmerie and the local administration. It was they who organized the transportation of the bodies to Sibut hospital. For Dossier Center’s interview with the hygienist at Sibut hospital who had inspected the bodies, see Attachment В6.
Kirill Radchenko’s mobile phone – a Xiaomi Redmi 3 Android SDK 22 – was active for the last time at 13:19 on July 31 around Bangui. An active Telegram session was recorded at that time from IP address 184.108.40.206; consequently, the mobile phone did not leave the CAR (see Attachment C.25).
After being examined in Sibut, the bodies were moved to the Hôpital Communautaire in Bangui, where death was confirmed (see Attachment B5).
They were then taken to the mortuary in the Hopital de I’Amitie in Bangui.
On August 4, the bodies of the murdered men were transported from Bangui to Paris, before being flown to Moscow on the night of August 4–5. The victims’ personal effects were sent to a gendarmerie office. According to a statement by Igor Zolotov, a major case investigator at the Directorate for Investigation of Crimes Against the Person and Public Safety in the Main Investigations Directorate of the RF Investigative Committee, three suitcases belonging to Dzhemal, Rastorguev and Radchenko have been stored in the RF embassy in CAR since March 2019, «but there is no possibility of transporting them to Moscow».
The findings of the forensic examination of the bodies of Dzhemal, Radchenko and Rastorguev supported the conclusion that they died as a result of multiple bullet wounds. It is impossible to define the precise distance from which the shots were fired, but the examination nevertheless established that they were fired not at point-blank range, but still from close by, as particles of gunpowder were found in some of the wounds. The ballistic examination of the bullets extracted from the bodies of Radchenko and Dzhemal showed that they were identical. Bullets of that type are used in the 7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle and modifications of it. A bullet extracted from Radchenko’s body bears traces that could identify the specific weapon used.
In the opinion of the experts interviewed by the Dossier Center, Orkhan Dzhemal could have been sitting in the right front seat next to the driver. Aleksandr Rastorguev probably sat in the right back seat, and Kirill Radchenko in the left back seat. This assumption is based on the fact that the bodies of Dzhemal and Rastorguev were found next to one another in the high grass to the right of the road.
Analysis of the direction from which the shots were fired leads to the conclusion that Dzhemal could have tried to hide in the grass and, accordingly, all shots hit him from the back. Kirill Radchenko was probably taken out of the car through the left door and, accordingly, his body was discovered at a distance of several meters from the bodies of Dzhemal and Rastorguev.
The experts interviewed by the Dossier Center also hypothesize that in such situation there could have been four to six assailants. One or two criminals could have been controlling the driver, and two or three executing the passengers. The experts emphasize that one of the first things that the criminals did was probably to take the key out of the ignition or physically remove the driver.
The fact that the driver was not killed but was even able, as he claims, to drive away unimpeded, also gives rise to questions and serious doubts about the veracity of his statements. It should be noted that the testimony given by the driver on August 1, 2018, at a gendarmerie office is rather incoherent and contains few details – he failed to describe the place where the assault occurred, the appearance of the journalist who, according to the testimony, was the first to be shot, and said little, if anything, about what the assailants did.
Dossier Center experts have developed a 3D reconstruction based on the photographs from the crime scene.
The model features the directions and the number of shots made, and the probable positions of Dzhemal, Rastorguev, and Radchenko at the time of the assault. Shot trajectories were reproduced on the basis of forensic reports. The vehicle is positioned along the path by which the journalists traveled from Sibut to Dekoa.
On July 31, 2018, S. Petrenko, an official spokesperson of the RF Investigative Committee, stated that a criminal case had been opened over the deaths of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko under Article 105.2.a of the RF Criminal Code (murder of two or more persons). She noted that «in the framework of the criminal case, in accordance with Russian criminal procedure law and international law, investigative actions will be carried out, including the submission of requests for legal assistance. In addition, the Investigative Committee is willing to provide assistance to the law enforcement bodies of the Central African Republic in the investigation of the extremely grievous crime committed against the journalists».
The Dossier Center investigation has revealed numerous discrepancies between the officially declared explanations and the actual circumstances of the crime. The explanation given by the CAR investigative bodies is based on the testimony given by the driver Bienvenue, which, as will be shown later, gives rise to numerous questions and is not confirmed by other sources.
The driver is the only person who survived the attack. How precisely he managed this and how he succeeded in fleeing the scene are questions that are still not fully explained.
According to the CAR investigative bodies, the driver’s full name is Bienvenue Douvokama. Numerous attempts by the Dossier Center to establish Bienvenue’s identity and obtain his photographs have been unsuccessful. The Dossier Center has obtained several different photographs of «Bienvenue» from various sources but it is not possible to establish their authenticity. According to statements by some Dossier Center sources, Bienvenue previously served in the gendarmerie or was in the military.
It is known for sure that after the incident, Bienvenue was held in a pretrial detention center (La Section des Recherches et d’Investigation, SRI) but was later released. His official status in the Russian criminal case is as a witness.
The ‘Moskovsky Komsomolets’ newspaper quotes diplomatic post from the RF embassy in the CAR as stating that Bienvenue was interrogated only 37 hours after the murders – at 09:58 on August 1. It then reproduces an excerpt from the interrogation (see Attachments B2 and B3 for the full text of the document obtained by the Dossier Center): «Two men appeared on the road with their arms raised in front of them as a sign to stop. I applied the brakes because it was raining and I also wanted to put the hand brake on; when the car stopped, several more armed bandits appeared with masks on their heads and they were speaking only Arabic. They aimed their weapons at us, opened the car doors and ordered us to get out. It was already dark. One of them shot one of the journalists, while the others began getting things out of the car. I held my hands behind my head. Two of the Russians tried to resist the attackers. I took advantage of that moment to jump back into the car whose engine was still running and immediately drove off».
According to a letter published in Moskovsky Komsomolets from Russia’s charge d’affaires in CAR, V.G.Tokmakov, which he sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 8, 2018, during the interrogation the driver «answered in a confused and indistinct manner, constantly repeating that he didn’t remember who the journalists had spoken to during the trip (on the phone or in person) and who exactly they were going to see»
Numerous inconsistencies in the driver’s statement can be found when comparing the evidence given by him to the gendarmerie on August 1, 2018 (see Attachments B2 and B3), with the statement he gave in February 2019 in an interview with private detective Yevgeny Gvozdev, who had been hired by RIA FAN.
Thus, during questioning on August 1, Bienvenue said that he uses two telephone numbers (+23670043220 and +23672117329), and that he did not remember the number he used to communicate with the journalists (+23675378291). Also, he made no mention in his statements of the telephone number +23675465314 which, as Dossier Center has established, was registered to his Bienvenue’s name and used daily in June and July 2018 (Attachment A2). Six months later, in his interview with Gvozdev, Bienvenue Douvokama confirmed that the number +23675378291 belongs to him.
In his testimony on August 1, 2018, Bienvenue did not mention that his contact details were given to the journalists before they arrived in the CAR. The fact that the arrangements with Bienvenue had been made in advance is confirmed by the correspondence between Rodion Chepel and the fixer «Martin» (see Attachments C.26.a, C.26.b, C.26.c, C.26.d, C.26.e, C.26.f, C.26.g, C.26.h, C.26.i, C.26.j, C.26.k, C.26.l, C.26.m, C.26.n).
In his interview with Gvozdev, Bienvenue also noted that he was offered the job as the Russians’ chauffeur by someone who had given him a telephone with the number +23675378291. But in his testimony at the gendarmerie office, Bienvenue concealed this and described his meeting with the journalists as a matter of chance: «I met the journalists from Russia at approximately 17:45 on July 28, 2018 in the GRAND CAFÉ patisserie, and as they spoke only English and I also speak that language quite well they asked me if I could offer my services as an English-speaking driver and rent a pick-up for various trips. On the basis of that conversation, we agreed on the aforementioned services and arranged a meeting next to the Hotel National, after which I went home» (see Attachments B2 and B3).
Notably, there are certain discrepancies between the testimony given by Bienvenue at the gendarmerie office and the testimony provided by Tondo Jule Aimé, the elder of the village of Kpakou, in whose house the driver hid after the assault. During the official interrogation, Bienvenue asserted that one of the journalists had been wounded: «They pointed their guns at us, opened the car doors, and told us to get out; it was already dark; the bandits shot one of the journalists, while others had started to get their stuff out of the car»; yet, he never mentioned having been wounded himself. On the contrary, according to the elder, Bienvenue failed to mention that the journalists had been wounded, and the elder learnt about their murder only in the morning on July 31 in Sibut. Meanwhile, Tondo Jule Aimé insisted that the driver had a belly wound (see Attachments B.21.a, B.21.b, B.21.c).
According to statements by the CAR authorities, the journalists were hijacked by approximately 10 men in turbans talking Arabic. Maria Zakharova, the official spokesperson of the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that the journalists «were attacked by unidentified persons for the purpose of robbery and were killed when attempting to resist. At a press conference in December 2018, Vladimir Putin repeated the same words. It should be noted that in his formal statement dated August 1, the driver did not mention the number of people who had attacked the journalists’ car (see Attachments B2 and B3).
The Dossier Center has received evidence that the version about the attack being carried out by 10 Arab-speaking bandits was put forward by Prigozhin’s staff in the «Company’s» internal chat before 19:25 Bangui time on July 31, 2018 before any reports on the identities or number of attackers in the media (for more details, see Section 2.6). It remains unclear why the information about «ten bandits» was accepted as the basis of the official comment from the CAR authorities of July 31, 2018 before the driver was questioned, and why this was not subsequently mentioned in his statement to the gendarmerie on August 1.
One’s attention is drawn to the wording used on January 11, 2019 by the RF Investigative Committee spokesperson to describe the crime – «killed by bandits during an attempted robbery«. For employees of an investigation body, this wording is legally highly irregular. Robbery means forcible theft of property, committed without the use of violence or with the use of violence with no danger to life or health, or with the threat of such violence. Therefore, robbery is a crime against property, and the object of criminal offence in this case is another person’s property. The criminal case was opened under Point a of Part 2 of Article 105 – murder of two or more persons. This is a completely different corpus delicti with a different object of crime and with a much higher degree of public danger. The official spokesperson of the Investigative Committee cannot fail to understand the difference between a crime against the person and a crime against property. Apparently, the object of the crime was the lives of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko, rather than their property and money.
In his evidence, the driver maintained that he managed to flee the murder scene in his car, in which he drove to Kpakou, the nearest village. It remains unclear why the murderers allowed the driver to escape, thereby leaving a key witness alive. Despite the professional way in which they shot Rastorguev and Radchenko, the murderers did not even attempt to stop the car by shooting at its wheels (see photographs of the car made at the crime scene, Attachment B2). It is known that the car contained the journalists’ valuables (Orkhan Dzhemal’s laptop and other equipment belonging to the team), but it can be assumed that the attackers were more interested in physically harming the victims than in their property. It is also worth noting that the vehicle was equipped with a ParkCity DVR HD 900 dashcam, which the team had brought with them from Russia but which disappeared at an unspecified time after the murders (see Attachment C.27).
From the photographs taken by MINUSCA staff who arrived on the crime scene between the villages of Kene and Kpakou at around 06:00 on July 31, it can be seen that the vehicle contained three cans of petrol, which had a high value for the local population. It should be noted that in July 2018 in this area, as well as in Bangui, there was a shortage of petrol due to supply disruptions caused by the low water level in the Ubangi River.
In the photographs, the car was next to the spot where the bodies of the journalists had been found. If these cans had not been taken from the village of Kpakou back to the crime scene but instead had remained there all that time (which is not stated in either the MINUSCA report or the driver’s evidence), this could be yet further evidence of inaccuracy in Bienvenue’s testimony (see Attachment B4).
As a result of its investigation, the Dossier Center has also managed to uncover a number of factual circumstances of fundamental importance for analysis of the crime. These circumstances cast doubt on the previously published official explanations of the murders but for some unknown reason are being ignored by the investigators.
According to the UN map (Attachment С.27.A), the team of journalists was traveling on a relatively safe road (marked green in the map). This totally refutes a statement by RIA FAN, which is affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin, that the victims’ bodies «were found on a road in the most dangerous area of the country».
Murders of white people are not common in CAR. Over the past several years there has been just one high-profile case, when Camille Lepage, a French journalist, was killed in May 2014. It is known for a fact that her murder was not connected with crime against her property.
The statements about the «ex-Seleka» group’s involvement in the murder and robbery of Dzhemal, Rastorguev and Radchenko look unfounded. The crime scene is on territory controlled not by «ex-Seleka» but by supporters of the Touadera government. In internal documents of employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the territory in which the incident occurred is designated as being under the control of Maxime Mokom, leader of the Anti-Balaka group and Minister for Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation. It should also be noted that in the immediate vicinity of the murder scene there is a FACA army base with Russian instructors (Sibut).
Moreover, as follows from the autopsy reports on the murdered journalists examined by the Dossier Center, the nature of the wounds inflicted indicate that the murders were deliberate and professionally executed. Thus, according to the forensic report, multiple wounds, including two wounds inflicted by deliberate shots to the heart, were found on the body of Rastorguev.
Dossier Center experts conclude that the shots were fired by people with professional training. The shots were executed precisely, despite the fact that the murders were committed at night in conditions of reduced visibility and on rugged terrain, while the victims were not bound at the time of the murders and were able to move relatively freely.
The ballistics examination established that the shots were fired from a weapon using a 7.62 mm 1943 model bullet. This type of bullet is used in AK-47 machine guns, AKMs and modifications of them.
The law enforcement bodies have not carried out a proper examination of the crime scene. Thus, despite the fact that a large number of shots were fired, only two cartridges were found at the scene. A few days after the murders unidentified persons burned the grass at the place where the bodies were found, presumably to conceal evidence.
The Dossier Center has managed to establish multiple facts confirming that the murders were preceded by a thoroughly planned and organized surveillance operation by CAR law enforcement agencies.
Data from Telecel telephone company, of which the Dossier Center has a copy, indicate that the telephone number for Bienvenue given to the journalists (+23675378291) was registered in the fictitious name of TOMA MARIANA on July 27, 2018. According to the printout, the number was only active from 13:10 on July 28 to 12:01 on July 30 (see Attachment A.1).
The Dossier Center has established that Bienvenue had another telephone number (+23675465314) that was registered in the name of DOUVOKAMA BIENVENUE on July 5, 2017. The last activity on this number was recorded at 17:41 on July 31, 2018 (see Attachment A.2).
To communicate with the journalists Bienvenue used not only a new number but also a new telephone. Metadata in the telephone printouts show that throughout July, the SIM card number +23675465314 was inserted in a telephone with IMEI 357456048557971, except between 09:21 and 11:19 on July 28, when it was inserted in a different telephone with IMEI 354000095482481. At 13:30 on July 28, the SIM card with the number +23675378291 was inserted in the telephone with IMEI 354000095482481 and was then used with this telephone right through to July 30 (see Attachments A.1 and A.2). There is every reason to believe that on July 28 Bienvenue received a new SIM card (+23675378291) and a new telephone (IMEI 354000095482481) specifically for communicating with the team of journalists (see Attachment A.1). His old SIM card (+23675465314) had apparently been inserted into the new telephone to check that it was working.
It transpires from printouts of Bienvenue’s telephone activity that the journalists’ driver was in constant communication with gendarmerie representative Emmanuel Touagende Kotofio (telephone number +23675717428) during their trip to CAR (see Attachments A.1 and A.3). As mentioned earlier, Kotofio was recognized by soldiers at the checkpoint in Sibut, who stated that he was in the immediate vicinity of the murder scene not long before the crime was committed. Telephone number +23675717428 is linked to a Facebook account in the name of Emmanuel Touagende Kotofio (https://www.facebook.com/emmanuel.touaguendekotofio). A copy of Kotofio’s ID submitted upon registration of the SIM card is given in the attachment.
Analysis of printouts of telephone activity by Bienvenue and Emmanuel Kotofio show that between July 28 and July 30 Kotofio (+23675717428) and Bienvenue (+23675378291) communicated 47 times by phone (including calls and text messages) (see Attachments A.1 and A.3). The regular short calls exchanged between Bienvenue and Kotofio are presumably evidence of operational communications (to report the journalists’ whereabouts, for example). The data provide grounds for concluding that Bienvenue was coordinating his actions with Kotofio. In addition, several local sources have confirmed to the Dossier Center that driver Bienvenue was a gendarmerie agent.
Bienvenue’s statement that he used the telephone with the number +23675378291 for private calls to communicate with his friend Kotofio does not stand up to scrutiny. Thus, an analysis of the telephone calls from Bienvenue’s second number (+23675465314) and five other telephone numbers identified by the Dossier Center shows that the first telephone conversation between them in July 2018 was at 18:46 on 21st (see Attachments A.2 and A.3). The intensity of communication between them increased on July 28 – the day the journalists arrived.
July 1–20 – 0 calls
July 21 – 2 calls
July 23 – 6 calls
July 24 – 11 calls
July 25 – 4 calls
July 26 – 5 calls
July 27 – 5 calls
July 28 – 36 calls
July 29 – 5 calls
July 30 – 12 calls
It should be noted that the journalists received CAR visas on July 11, so from at least that day the CAR authorities were informed of their imminent arrival in Bangui.
Metadata from Kotofio’s telephone conversations confirm that during the journalists’ trip to CAR he was constantly in their immediate vicinity. On July 28 and 29, Kotofio was in the center of Bangui near the Hotel National, where Dzhemal, Rastorguev and Radchenko were staying. Data on calls made on July 30 indicate that on that day Kotofio, like the journalists, was in the towns of Damara and Sibut. It has been established that at around 15:00 the team of journalists were in Damara; at 14:56 OSMO camera activity was recorded in Radchenko’s Google account. According to telephone metadata for Emmanuel Kotofio, a signal from his number +23675717428 was recorded by the DAMARA_1 tower at 13:28, and by the SIBUT_1 tower at 16:07.
According to the telephone activity printouts, Kotofio’s last incoming call was at 16:07 on July 30, when he was in Sibut. From that moment right up to August 12, 2018, Kotofio’s number +23675717428 was inaccessible. From August 12, Kotofio’s number was active and remains active to this day. Kotofio’s five other telephone numbers continued to be active from August 1 to August 12 (see Attachment A.3).
The Dossier Center has established a number of significant details in Kotofio’s biography. It transpires, for example, that he had previously received military retraining in Sudan (camp at Am Dafog) organized by Russian instructors from the «Company». Dossier Center sources also report that Kotofio received a promotion some time after the murders.
From Kotofio’s telephone printouts it can be seen that he was in constant contact with several gendarmes and FACA officers whose identifies have been established by the Dossier Center. According to information from local sources, Emmanuel Kotofio maintains close contact with Russian instructors in CAR and was spotted as a driver for the Russian military some time after the murders.
Kotofio figures as a witness in the materials of the criminal case opened by the RF Investigative Committee.
Throughout July and August 2018, Emmanuel Kotofio used three telephone numbers to make contact 108 times with the number +23675742579 (including calls and SMS messages), which was registered in the name of Hammond Barret Travis (see Attachment А4).
The ID submitted to register the number, as shown in data from mobile operator Telecel (see copy in attachment) has been identified by the Dossier Center as an invalid US passport (see Attachment C.28). This same document was used to register another Telecel number (+236 75742582).
It has been established that the latter number was linked to a WhatsApp account (see Attachments C.29.a, C.29.b, C.29.c, C.29.d). An analysis of photographs in the WhatsApp profile has established that the account belonged to Aleksandr Sotov (see Sotov’s profile in the VK.com and OK.ru social networks in Attachments C.30.a, C.30.b).
The investigation by the Dossier Center has established that Aleksandr Sotov is a former officer of the Internal Troops of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs and lives in St Petersburg. In July and August 2018, including the day on which the journalists were murdered, he was in CAR, as indicated by pay slips of the «Company» (see Attachments B7 and B8), obtained by the Dossier Center, and a request to book tickets from Bangui to Saint-Petersburg (see Attachment B9). It follows from the documents that Sotov has been assigned the personal PMC Wagner employee number М-5661. In the company’s staff schedule Sotov is named as an «Instructor in Surveillance, Counter-surveillance, Recruitment and Intelligence Work».
An analysis of telephone data for the two numbers registered in the name of Hammond Barret Travis (Attachments А4 and А5), shows that there were 34 shared contacts, including numbers registered to the following individuals: ZAKHAROV VALERY (+23675387607); ZAKHAROV VALERY (+23675633893); ZAKHAROV VALERY (+23675633909); ZAKHAROV VALERY (+23675205108); ZAKHAROV VALERY (+23675633925); EVSTIGNEEV KIRILL (+23675189068); BARILOVICH ANZHELIKA (+23675597751); PANOV ZAKHAR (+23675217352); ZHUKOV ROMAN (+23675334681); MAKOVSKY ARTUR (+23675517841). Internal documents from M-Finans and M Invest show that all the above individuals are employees of those companies, which are affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin (see Attachment B10).
Valery Zakharov (an official security adviser to the president of the CAR) is named in the «Company’s» records as a «head of group of instructors» with the personal PMC Wagner employee number М-5658 shown next to his name. It has also been established that Zakharov has dual citizenship – RF and CAR (as indicated in a copy of a visa form from the RF embassy in CAR (see Attachment B11).
In total, in July and August 2018, the owner of the SIM card registered in the name of Hammond Barret Travis contacted Valery Zakharov on both numbers 167 times, including calls and text messages.
A study of the metadata from the telephone conversations of Hammond Barret Travis (+23675742579) and Valery Zakharov (+23675633909) established that at various times during July 2018 they used the same Motorola telephone with IMEI 355645081443791. The telephone was used in the same place (OUANGO, Bangui) (see Attachments А4 and А6). In January 2019, the BBC managed to establish the location from which Aleksandr Sotov could have sent some photographs to his wife Olga Sidorenko .The journalists reported that the building by the Ubangi River is adjacent to a military base of the CAR General Staff (Camp De Roux) and is 500 m from the Russian embassy. This coincides with the location at which the telephones registered to Hammond Barret Travis (+23675742579) and Valery Zakharov (+23675633909) were used. A copy of a PoA in Aleksandr Sotov’s name, obtained by the Dossier Center, shows that Valery Zakharov is his immediate superior (see Attachment C.31).
As follows from Zakharov’s comments to the ‘Fontanka’ publication, Sotov and Kotofio could have been in a «teacher – student» relationship. He also stated that Sotov did indeed work as an instructor in CAR and that Kotofio is a gendarmerie employee.
After the initial reports of the incident appeared on July 31, 2018, the ICC team in Moscow unsuccessfully attempted to contact «Martin», but his telephone was unreachable and messages sent by messenger services were not read (see Attachment C.32).
For several months, the Dossier Center gathered and analyzed data in order to establish the identity of «Martin» and to obtain information about his whereabouts. It should be mentioned that RIA FAN special correspondent Kirill Romanovsky, who had given the journalists the fixer’s contact details, repeatedly changed his statements regarding «Martin». Romanovsky states that during a chance meeting in Berlin, his associate Abu told him that «Martin», a common acquaintance with whom Romanovsky had not been in contact for a long time, was in CAR working for the UN or an NGO. Romanovsky asked Abu for «Martin’s» telephone number, but as Abu only had his iPad with him, he was unable to share the contact details and noted down Romanovsky’s number. According to Kirill Romanovsky, several days later he received a message from «Martin» – the first time he had written to him since 2013.
Romanovsky maintained that he had met «Martin» more than 10 years previously in the Kunsthaus Tacheles arts center in Berlin. He said that he and «Martin» had a common interest – sports medicine. Romanovsky also mentioned that «Martin» shared with him information about various events in Germany. According to Romanovsky, they last met by chance in Unter den Linden street in Berlin.
First, he said that he had met a friend of «Martin’s» by the name of Abu in Berlin in the autumn of 2017. Later, Romanovsky changed his evidence and stated that he had met Abu in June 2018. Romanovsky had difficulty describing «Martin’s» and Abu’s appearance, the circumstances in which he had met both of them and the place where he had met Abu. The Dossier Center went to Germany to find a shop called Altstadt Späti, in which, according to Romanovsky, he had met Abu. It transpired that the place named by Romanovsky is very different from the description he gave.
Romanovsky’s evidence is impossible to confirm for several reasons. First, it should be noted that Romanovsky refused to provide a number of factual proofs of his lengthy acquaintance with Abu or «Martin», which he had previously mentioned, explaining that he a) deletes old chats; and b) had handed his telephone in for repair because it broke down after the murders. According to Romanovsky, he only managed to get his phone back in the middle of August, after which he sent a screenshot of his correspondence with «Martin» in WhatsApp. The first message in this correspondence was dated July 10, 2018 at 21:56 Moscow time (see Attachment C.33). And at 16:01 on the same day, Romanovsky informed Konyakhin that «Martin» had already contacted him on WhatsApp. Romanovsky was unable to provide confirmation of any correspondence prior to 21:56 on July 10. According to him, all the data had been lost. The Dossier Center has established that «Martin’s» number appeared in Romanovsky’s telephone book at 15:16 Moscow time on July 10 (see Attachment C.34).
Moreover, Romanovsky claims that the constant changes in his evidence, its contradictory nature and discrepancies with verifiable facts are due to memory problems caused by a brain tumor. For ethical reasons, the Dossier Center has decided not to publish the evidence it has obtained of the falseness of a number of Romanovsky’s statements or otherwise comment on his state of health.
The reconstruction of the events established that Romanovsky gave the ICC the contact details of «UN worker Dutchman Martin» on July 7, 2018 (see Attachment C.34.a). According to a printout of «Martin’s» telephone activity (+23675167773), his number was first activated just two days before that, on July 5 2018, at 15:25 Bangui time, when he called the Telecel support service number 611 (see Attachment A7).
The fact that Romanovsky had handed over «Martin’s» number three days before their first confirmed communication (which took place at 21:56 Moscow time on July 10) indicates that Romanovsky could have received the number no earlier than July 5 and no later than July 7, from an unidentified source which he, for some reason, is not disclosing.
On July 10, 2018, at 16:23 Bangui time, «Martin» received an SMS message from Anastasia Gorshkova, but instead of replying to it, he switched off his phone (see Attachments C.36.a, C.36.b). On July 7, Romanovsky asked Andrey Konyakhin not to phone «Martin» but to communicate with him only by text message via WhatsApp, explaining that communication was poor in Bambari. Throughout this entire period there never a single telephone conversation with «Martin».
Metadata in the printouts of «Martin’s» calls show that his telephone never left Bangui, despite the claims that he was in Bambari (376 km from the CAR capital). No telephone communication problems were reported in Bangui during that period (see Attachment C.37 and Attachment A7).
«Martin’s» telephone number (+23675167773) was registered to Erika Mustermann (see Attachment A7), whose name and photograph have been used for a number of years as fake ID for certifying identify in Germany. The use of fake documents to register a telephone number is one indication that «Martin» is part of a thoroughly planned operation. The call data show that mobile communication on this number was used for only three days – July 5, 7 and 10 – and that no calls were made from that number (except for two calls to the support service on July 5) (see Attachment A7). On July 7, «Martin» received one SMS message from an unidentified subscriber, and on July 10 he received SMS messages from Anastasia Gorshkova. After that, «Martin’s» mobile phone was not used.
According to officials questioned in Bambari, including the deputy head of MINUSCA and the mayor of Bambari, there was no Dutchman by the name of «Martin» in the town. A search of the list of UN workers in CAR also failed to find any Dutchman called «Martin».
Kirill Romanovsky was unable to remember «Martin’s» exact surname, but he gave several possible versions which were checked by the Dossier Center in the register of residents of The Netherlands using all possible spelling modifications (see Attachments C.39.a, C.39.b). This analysis showed that for several generations there has been no-one with the name and surname given by Kirill Romanovsky in the population of the country.
The Dossier Center has obtained Romanovsky’s browsing history for the period from March to August 2018. Some of the journalist’s search requests could clearly be of interest to the RF Investigative Committee (see Attachment B12). It becomes clear from this history that before the trip by the group of journalists to the Central African Republic, Kirill Romanovsky was acquainted with and communicated with a number of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s employees in that country. Also, on specific dates – June 1, June 23, July 30 (i.e. on the day of the murder), July 31 and August 1–4 – he checked the news for reports about Russian citizens in CAR (according to data for the period from March to August 2018).
Thus, on June 1, 2018, he repeatedly typed search requests in Russian and French: «Russian convoy in Bangui» [convoy russe a bangui], «Russians in Bangui» [russes a bangui] and «Russians in Central Africa».
Romanovsky’s interest in the CAR may be explained by the fact that previously, as a cameraman, he had been involved in a Russian convoy from Sudan to CAR, which also included representative of the RF Defense Ministry and PMC Wagner fighters. A photograph found in open access shows Romanovsky in the vicinity of Birao (northern CAR, 45 km from the border with Sudan) accompanying a Russian convoy in May 2018. It transpires that the sponsor of Romanovsky’s Sudanese visa was a Sudanese company called Aswar Multi Activities. Attached hereto (Attachment B13) is a copy of the draft contract between Aswar and a company called Meroe Gold (Sudan), which is affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Dossier Center has obtained a copy of a Sudanese entry permit in the name of Kirill Romanovsky, dated March 26, 2018 (see Attachment B14), confirmation of a flight from Syria to Sudan, evidence of crossing the CAR border on May 5, 2018 (Am Dafok checkpoint) and data on a flight from Bangui to St Petersburg on May 23, 2018 (see Attachments C.40.a, C.40.b, C.40.c). The Dossier Center has received confirmation that the permit to enter Sudan was sent to Romanovsky by Mikhail Potepkin, regional director of M Invest, a company affiliated with Prigozhin (see Attachment C.41).
Incidentally, Kirill Romanovsky never mentioned his work trip to Sudan and CAR either to ICC staff or in his personal social media accounts.
On June 16, 2018, Romanovsky typed into his search engine a link to Yandex-Disk containing files with a video of the movement of that same Russian convoy to CAR. At 01:43 on the video, Kirill Romanovsky’s face can be seen amongst local CAR residents while an off screen voice talks about deliveries of medicines to Bria and Bambari.
On June 21, he searched several times for «presentation of state awards» and «June 28 award presentation», while on June 29 there were numerous searches «on presentation of the Award of Courage to Romanovsky» and also «benefits and payments for Award of Courage in 2018: procedure for receipt, amount». This information ties in with the fact that on June 25 Romanovsky informed Andrey Konyakhin of his award.
According to his browsing history, on the eve of the murder – at 12:38 GMT on July 30 – there was a search request «Russians in CAR». At 11:45 on the morning of July 31, Romanovsky googled «Article 105» (this article of the Russian Criminal Code is entitled «Murder») and then twice (at 12:00 and 12:10) «russes a Bangui» (Russians in Bangui). At 15:03 a search request was recorded for «three Russians killed», and at 15:31 ‒ «Sibut» (see Attachment B12). It should be noted that the first report of the murdered Russians was published by AFP at 7:03 GMT.
At 16:30, Romanovsky accessed Kirill Radchenko’s profile on VK.com, after which (at 20:20) he searched for information on how to clear a telephone’s memory. In his interview to The Insider, Kirill Romanovsky was unable to explain why he had suddenly become interested in deleting information from a telephone at that time. Previously, on July 28, Romanovsky had also searched for information on how to delete search history and other data. As it turned out, on August 3, Romanovsky deleted his correspondence with 13 VK.com users.
On August 1, 2018 at 20:09, Romanovsky typed in a search request «tacheles berlin» (Tacheles arts center) and opened the Wikipedia page for Kunsthaus Tacheles. Romanovsky was subsequently to name Tacheles as the place where he had made the acquaintance of «Martin». In light of the deletion of data from his phone and social media messages, and also the numerous discrepancies in the versions of events given by Romanovsky, there is every reason to suppose that it was on August 1 that he planned the details of the story he was later to put forward.
While conducting its own investigation, the Dossier Center encountered a number of obstacles intentionally created by the official CAR authorities:
According to the information available to the Dossier Center, as confirmed by multiple sources, all investigative activities in Bangui have, to all intents and purposes, been discontinued. V.G. Tokmakov, Russia’s Charge d’Affaires in CAR, described the situation as follows: «There is an impression that the local law enforcement bodies are not particularly eager to investigate the murder of the Russian journalists, and are only relying on the work to be done by Russian investigators».
In August 2018, Russia and the CAR signed an intergovernmental agreement on military cooperation, delivery of arms and dispatch of Russian military instructors to CAR; in April 2019, it was supplemented with an agreement on the establishment of a Representative Office of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in CAR. In addition, the parties reached an agreement on «direct interaction between law enforcement bodies and cooperation in criminal and other matters» . Despite that, from a petition filed in the case by the victim Aleksandr Radchenko, father of Kirill Radchenko, it follows that no case documents have been received from CAR, and requests filed by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation remain unanswered.
In September 2018, Marina Andreeva, legal counsel for the victims (Aleksandr Radchenkoand Irina Gordienko, former wife of Orkhan Dzhemal), requested that the clothes of the murdered journalists be delivered to Moscow to enable a complete ballistics examination, and filed a petition with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation to instruct cellular providers from the Central African Republic to release printouts of mobile calls to/from the phones of Dzhemal, Rastorguev, and Radchenko. As of July 2019, her petition has not been satisfied. It also remains unclear why the full set of required forensic examinations had not been conducted prior to repatriation of the bodies to Russia. The embalming performed back in the CAR destroyed or damaged critical trace evidence that could have been instrumental in a more precise determination of (a) the time of death of the journalists, and (b) the distance from which the shots had been fired.
On June 9, 2019, Counsel Andreeva filed another petition addressed to Igor Zolotov, Special Investigator, Division for Investigation of Crimes against Persons and Public Safety, Chief Investigative Division, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, with a request to incorporate in the case materials the article Chronicle of a Well Prepared Death by Denis Korotkov, published in Novaya Gazeta and based on the murder investigation materials collected by the Dossier Center. The petition had several enclosures, including telephone billing printouts for the driver Bienvenue and the gendarme Emmanuel Kotofio, as well as documents proving that Russian citizens Valery Zakharov and Aleksandr Sotov may have access to information that could be of interest to the investigative team. Upon expiry of the official response deadline, investigator Zolotov first said that he had not received any petition, and then gave orders to decline the petition in respect of interrogating Zakharov and Sotov, «as the materials currently available in the criminal case do not contain sufficient data showing that the aforementioned individuals have access to any information of an evidentiary nature».
A review of publications on this matter in various sources, including the official websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, clearly demonstrates the existence of a common tendency to:
Among the publications which offer a biased view of the murder and serve to misinform the public and obstruct the investigation, two deserve special mention: RIA FAN article Blood Is Special Juice dated October 15, 2018, and article Who Stands Behind the Murder of Russian Journalists in the CAR dated June 6, 2019. In February 2019, the Federal News Agency hired Yevgeny Gvozdev, a private detective, to «examine new information and circumstances and verify the facts mentioned in various speculations by numerous mass media in connection with the murder of the ICC group in the Central African Republic». As Irina Gordienko, former wife of Orkhan Dzhemal who has been accorded the status of a victim in the case, noted in her statement, it is rather suspicious that Gvozdev, being a private individual, was granted access to the case materials and given an opportunity to interrogate certain witnesses, including military personnel and gendarmes, something that the Investigative Committee had been unable to do prior to that. The RIA FAN material intersperses information obtained by Gvozdev with pure speculation, which removes any doubt as to whether its authors may have pursued any objective other than to mislead the readers.
For example, the publication advances the version according to which «Martin» is the «French militant Dominique Christophe Raineteau, a.k.a. Alpha, an individual closely linked to criminal gangs, as he frequently had meetings with Force [real name – Nimeri Matar Jamus], the leader of a Muslim group«. That conclusion is drawn on the basis of the testimony provided by the driver Bienvenue, who claimed that he had been given the telephone number that he used to contact the journalists by a man named Yusuf who had been working with Christophe (Alpha). The assumption that the fixer «Martin» and Dominique Raineteau are the same person appears absurd due to the well-known fact that Kirill Romanovsky introduced the contact to the group as «Martin – UN officer and Dutchman».
It should be noted that even before February 13, 2019, RIA FAN published an article about Christophe Raineteau subtitled: Mysterious Martin proves to be an agent of a French special service, founder of a mercenary army, and former advisor to CAR’s ex-president François Bozizé, a person whom Interpol holds to be a terror suspect. The article advances the completely unfounded assumption that «Christophe «Martin» Raineteau, a person who recently found himself in the center of mass media attention and whom CAR authorities suspect of having committed an act of terrorism, and who has an extensive influence network spanning the continent, may prove to be the liaison long sought after by both African and Russian investigators». When read together, the two publications create an impression that they seek to misinform the readers and draw their attention away from the role played by Romanovsky, who had provided ICC representatives with contact information for the fixer «Martin».
In an interview to the private detective Yevgeny Gvozdev featured in the RIA FAN material dated June 6, the driver Bienvenue Douvokama confirmed that the telephone number that he had been using to talk to the journalists (+23675378291) was, in fact, owned by him, and stated that he had been acquainted with Kotofio for many years, and that they had a friendly relationship. According to Bienvenue, the number had been supplied to him by a man going by the name of «Yusuf», who suggested that he should work as the driver for the Russians. Bienvenue maintains that he received the SIM card in Bangui in the morning, several hours before the meeting with the journalists. The Dossier Center was not able to confirm the existence of a man by the name of «Yusuf». It is critically important that the journalists received Bienvenue’s number and name from «Martin» (the fixer recommended by Kirill Romanovsky) on July 27, i.e. one day before Bienvenue, according to his own statement, had received the SIM card (see Attachments C.43.a, C.43.b).
The Dossier Center discovered that the author of the article Blood Is Special Juice (signed by the pen-name «Alexey Zhvakin») is Kirill Romanovsky. Yevgeny Zubarev, RIA FAN Editor-in-Chief, did not sign the article with Romanovsky’s name at the latter’s request (see Attachments C.44.a, C.44.b).
On August 12, 2018, a group of Russian journalists arrived in CAR in the course of the so-called «independent investigation» initiated by the Federal News Agency to establish the circumstances of the tragedy. The film crew consisted of Kirill Romanovsky, Yulia Nikitina (Fontanka.ru correspondent), Vladimir Malyanov (journalist), Denis Tarasov (press photographer and cameraman), and Klim Kasyanov (interpreter). The Dossier Center learnt that Denis Tarasov and Romanovsky had arrived in Khartoum from Damascus in April 2018, and in May 2018 they had both accompanied Prigozhin’s «Company» convoy from Sudan to CAR (see Attachment C.45). At the time of publication of RIA FAN’s material, information about their joint trip had been withheld.
Romanovsky also concealed his acquaintance with Valery Zakharov, who had been coordinating the work of the investigative team in CAR, and had assigned two Russian military instructors, namely, Kavkaz and Denis, to accompany the film crew. The main conclusion drawn by the authors of the «independent» investigation was that local residents had not seen any «Martin» in Bambari. The Dossier Center found out that Romanovsky had left CAR earlier than the rest of the team, as that he and Valery Zakharov had headed for Khartoum to take part in negotiations with the leaders of CAR rebel groups, including «Anti-Balaka» and «ex-Séléka» (the meeting may have been attended by Yevgeny Prigozhin) (see Attachment C.46). This is one of many facts that Romanovsky is trying to keep under wraps.
Supposedly, an active role in the disinformation campaign staged by Prigozhin’s employees was played by Mikhail Burchik, one of Kirill Romanovsky’s superiors who was named among the thirteen Russians accused of interfering in the US Presidential Election in 2016. The indictment delivered by the Grand Jury for the District of Columbia noted that Burchik had, approximately until April 2014, held the position of the General Director of the «Internet Research Agency», an entity known as the «troll factory», which was included in the US Sanctions List in March 2018. Mikhail Burchik is also known to have had numerous meetings with Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Documents made available to the Dossier Center show that it was Burchik that helped Romanovsky to fabricate the legend regarding his acquaintance with «Martin» and Abu. Describing the place of the meeting with Abu, Romanovsky mentioned a supermarket in Berlin, saying he could not recall the location more precisely. In his e-mail to Andrey Konyakhin dated October 13, 2018 (21:42 Moscow time), Romanovsky noted that he was looking for the store using Google Maps (see Attachment C.47). It turned out that, one hour before, he and Mikhail Burchik had been discussing the best way to describe the supermarket (see Attachments C.48.a, C.48.b). The latter advised him to refrain from sharing the precise location and other details that could be instrumental in finding Abu. Burchik suggested that the answers be worded as follows: «a small supermarket in this or that district» and «I do not recall exactly, something with a red roof».
On September 28, 2018, Telegram channel «Kremlyovskaya Prachka» [Kremlin Washerwoman] published fake correspondence between Andrey Konyakhin and Pyotr Verzilov. From the chat between Mikhail Burchik and Kirill Romanovsky, it follows that not only did they seek to make the news story more popular, but they may also have been behind its emergence (see Attachments C.49.a, C.49.b, C.49.c).
The Dossier Center learnt that Kirill Romanovsky was asked to perform disinformation tasks not only by Mikhail Burchik, but also by other individuals. For example, in December 2018, while on a mission in Syria, Romanovsky was instructed by Mikita Ancharov, RIA FAN employee, to film fabricated «terrorist notes» and an «interview» with a fake terrorist (see Attachments C.50.a, C.50.b, C.50.c).
Moreover, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s employees planned to shoot a documentary «about how the Russians brought peace to the CAR» (script presented in Attachment). The film was supposed to (1) present PMC activities in a favorable peaceful light; (2) demonstrate positive and efficient activities of the «Company», concealing certain negative developments associated with its head; (3) demonstrate the effectiveness of the global peace-making efforts undertaken by V.V. Putin, President of the Russian Federation. According to the authors of the script, a «direct implicit link to the effect that the PMC carries out the President’s instructions’ will boost PMC’s status and improve perception of its activities, improve the reputation of its head, seal some mouths, and make it possible to treat the PMC’s presence in any part of the world as a peace-making mission». Local rebels, Russian military instructors, and PMC representatives were to have become the film’s main characters. Their remarks, invented in advance, should have added up to form an overall picture promoting the most convenient version of the murder. For example, the script contained the following remark by a PMC representative: «They should have asked right at the airport where the Russians are here, and any cabbie would have taken them to us for 10 bucks. Naturally, we would have given them a lesson in loving our Motherland, a harsh lesson, fit for real men, but at least they would have been alive now».
Internal communications between «Company» employees made available to the Dossier Center contain proof of the fact that persons affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a disinformation campaign as early as the day after the tragedy.
For example, the first news of the murder of three Russian journalists with a request to begin looking for information and respond to the incident ASAP was sent to the Telegraph group chat «CAR Media» (which had been visited by the Russian employees of the «Company» working on Prigozhin’s Central African project) at 15:40 (Bangui time) on July 31 (see Attachment C.51) [the time displayed in the chat window is Bangui time + 10 hours]. During the period from 16:52 to 17:03 (Bangui time), chat members discussed who should pose as the author of the press release, and it was suggested that it should be published on behalf of Valery [Zakharov] (see Attachment C.52). At 18:05, Maria Pushkina, a «back office» employee, sent to the chat a link to the RBC article «Embassy in the CAR Says Two People Carrying Izvestia Press Cards Found Dead» with a note saying «Press release probably written already». It follows from the above that the press release that chat participants were going to write should have reflected the official position of the Russian Federation (see Attachment C.53).
The following message was sent at 18:10 by Nikolay Chiklin, the «Company’s» media manager in the CAR: «We are waiting for full info to be provided by Valery [Zakharov] whose arrival is expected shortly. He promised to come. There is a live witness» (see Attachment С.54).
What follows is fabrication of the most convenient version of the incident for subsequent promotion through the mass media (see Attachment C.55). For example, chat participants intend to get Zakharov’s permit to disseminate information to the effect that (1) for unknown reasons, the journalists went to Kaga-Bandoro, a territory fully controlled by Abdoulaye Hissène; (2) neither the Russian Embassy nor the UN were apprised of the journalists’ arrival in the CAR.
At 19:25 Bangui time, Pyotr Bychkov, head of the so-called «back office» maintained by Prigozhin in Saint Petersburg, wrote (see Attachment C.56) in the chat that he and Valery Zakharov had come up with an idea as to what position everyone should take: «Those shady individuals, probably acting under orders from Khodor [Khodorkovsky], headed for Kaga-Bandoro where, according to MINUSCA, a rebel meeting was under way with the participation of Ali Darassa, Al Khatim, and Abdoulaye Hissène. About 10 Arabic-speaking rebels stopped the journalists to rob them. The driver, although wounded, managed to escape, he is being interrogated» (here and below spelling and punctuation of the authors are preserved). It should be noted that the first media reports alleging that the journalists were attacked by 10 Arabic-speaking rebels appeared later that evening (time of The Associated Press publication dated July 31 – 21:15 GMT). The first official interrogation of the driver Bienvenue (where he did not specify the exact number of assailants) took place only at 09:58 on August 1, 2018.
Subsequent discussion (19:27–19:30) deals with who is to promote the version fabricated by Bychkov and Zakharov, with the Embassy or the CAR Security Service being suggested as possible conduits (see Attachment C.57). The wording used by the chat participants appear ambiguous, to say the least: «Why should we come up with an official statement regarding this incident, anyway? What do we have to do with it? Aren’t we gonna give ourselves away if we stick our noses in this mess? What does it matter to us who died there and why it happened? The Ambassador has already provided his comments. Should we say something too?» (Vadim Kuptsov, 19:27–19:28); «It may just happen that uneasy conscience betrays itself» (Taras, 19:29); «Now all journalists in the country (and Ukrainians, too) are looking at the CAR. Anyone who speaks up will stand out like a sore thumb» (Taras, 19:30).
At 20:21, Vadim Kuptsov sends in a detailed information campaign plan (see Attachment C.60), including the time when the head of the gendarmerie should make a statement regarding the progress of the investigation and the current theories, and a description of a social media strategy envisaging proliferation of «discussions and possible versions (including downright stupid versions) of what those people may have been doing there». Moreover, in his message Kuptsov directly says that it is necessary to «think up» a version of what happened, and conceal the fact that the journalists were planning to film PMC activities: «As for what those people were doing there, we need to think it up. Any versions that they were filming PMC activities, or working for Khodor [Khodorkovsky], should be killed off. I think we can say that they came to CAR to make a film about the successful work that Russian instructors have been doing for the FACA. And they simply met with some bad luck on the road. As for us, we are training the FACA – officially, openly, and legally. Then the story about why Russian journalists appeared there will be logical. It would be desirable to end this whole story with some high-ranking politician (maybe even someone from FAT) making a statement condemning the incident and offering apologies to Russia and to family members».
Discussion in the chat contains more statements indicating that a disinformation campaign was being planned: «In any case, we need to make a play on the reason for their presence in the CAR. Otherwise there will remain room for conjecture and inconvenient assumptions» (Vadim Kuptsov, 20:32); «It is critical that no-one comes up with a version that they have been prevented from finishing some film, it is essential to find the perp suggested by the gendarmerie» (FUNKYBOSS, 20:48).
At 20:52–20:53, Pyotr Bychkov sent the following message: «We have discussed this. the perps spoke Arabic. I’ll discuss this with the chief now when the un comes online – whether we can charge abd… with this thing» (see Attachment C.61).
Semantic reconstruction indicates that «abd…» stands for «Abdoulaye Hissène», rebel leader, head of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC, p.k.a. «Séléka»). Further, the reason why Bychkov has to discuss with the «chief» (Yevgeny Prigozhin) whether the blame can be placed on Hissène is that the representatives of the «Company» and the rebels had a long-standing contractual relationship.
According to internal documents of the «Company», direct negotiations with the local rebel groups were conducted by Valery Zakharov. In an interview to Al-Jazeera, he voiced a version according to which, on the day of the murder, the journalists changed the agreed route and went to the north instead of Bambari because they wanted to interview field commanders (Abdoulaye Hissène, Noureddine Adam, Mahamat Al Khatim) at a meeting in Kaga-Bandoro. Still, Zakharov never mentioned the fact that his colleagues from Prigozhin’s «Company» had taken an active part in setting up that meeting. Nor did he bring up the negotiations with other rebels, e.g., Force, a leader who controlled the Bangui district RK5 – and a recipient of the «Company’s» «humanitarian assistance». Information about close contacts between Prigozhin’s «Company» and the rebels is corroborated by a memorandum written by Christian Bader, French Ambassador to the CAR, on February 6, 2018 (see details in Section 3 of this report; see Attachment B27).
Notably, employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» have sweeping powers. For example, recently obtained data indicate that they were authorized to brief personnel of the Russian Embassy in CAR. On September 19, Dmitry Sytyi, a representative of the «Company», received a letter from Konstantin Lekhov, Attaché of the Russian Embassy in CAR, Head of Consular Section, who asks for advice as to the best ways to answer the questions asked by Roman Radchenko, Kirill Radchenko’s brother, regarding the handover of his deceased relative’s personal belongings, and clarification of who had allocated money to pay for repatriation of Kirill Radchenko’s mortal remains (see Attachments B15a, B15b).
The text of the message is copied from a document available to the Dossier Center:
As we agreed, I am sending scans of requests from the brother of the deceased A. Radchenko.
The first is about assistance with the handover of personal belongings, the second (sent at Victor’s request) is about WHO paid.
The first request is for you to instruct the local procurator’s office/gendarmerie, from your side, not to burn anything, let them hand it all over to the Embassy (we will pass it on).
The second request is for you to discuss this and tell us what is the best way to answer that question.
According to the information made available to the Dossier Center, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» paid for advanced training in Russia of the Central African law enforcement officers who were responsible for handling the case. According to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper citing diplomatic correspondence of the Russian Embassy in CAR, on September 20, 2018, V.G. Tokmakov, Russia’s Charge d’Affaires in the CAR, informed a high-ranking employee of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation that no judicial investigator had been appointed in CAR, while the African prosecutors had all left for Saint Petersburg. «The General Prosecutor (CAR) and his deputy, accompanied by a team of other employees, went to Saint Petersburg to take part in an advanced training course sponsored by a private Russian company».
The Dossier Center has also obtained documents showing that Prigozhin’s «Company» makes $5,000 payments to all its «advisors», including the Police Chief, the Minister of National Security, and other members of the cabinet of the Central African President Touadéra (see Attachment C.63).
Accordingly, in an environment where potential stakeholders can exert virtually unlimited influence on the investigation process, it would be unrealistic to expect that any investigation conducted by Central African law enforcement bodies will be objective. Despite that, the Dossier Center hopes that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation will satisfy the petitions regarding the interrogation of witnesses and incorporation of the aforementioned evidence in the case materials, and that the investigative bodies will take other active steps to identify the individuals involved in the murder of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko.
While investigating the murder of the three journalists in the Central African Republic, Dossier Center experts have reviewed internal documents of the «Company» dealing with the activities conducted by the PMC’s political strategists, geologists, and other employees in CAR.
Information obtained by the Dossier Center indicates that Yevgeny Prigozhin and his employees have been actively involved in the Central African project since 2017. On September 21, 2017, seven «M Invest» specialists (Yevgeny Frolov, Nikolay Dobronravin, Boris Nizhevenkov, Vyacheslav Boteyev, Yevgeny Khodotov, Dmitry Sytyi, Aleksandr Kuzin) arrived in CAR at the invitation of the country’s President Faustin-Archange Touadéra for an in-depth study of opportunities for exploration and extraction of mineral resources in the territory of the country (see Attachment B17).
On October 7, 2017, representatives of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» held a meeting in Sochi with members of the Government of CAR to determine the key areas of strategic partnership, specifically: (1) establishment of a mining company; (2) social policy and information matters; and (3) security matters (see Attachment B18). It should be noted that two days later, on October 9, 2017, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, held an official meeting in Sochi with Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic, at which they agreed to increase intergovernmental cooperation in the political, economic, and humanitarian areas.
According to the memorandum on establishment of a mining company, as signed by representatives of the Russian Federation affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Central African party, it was resolved that a group of Russian experts (lawyers, geologists, and political strategists) should be dispatched to the CAR by October 16, 2017. The document noted that, «having considered the order, as issued by the President of the Republic to the Presidium, to assist implementation of the current project, CAR party undertakes to accelerate and simplify, to the maximum extent possible, any and all bureaucratic procedures». Moreover, the CAR President undertook to ask the country’s customs bodies to simplify importation of industrial equipment and reduce customs duties.
According to the plan, the company was to obtain a license by November 26, 2017, and an exploration permit by January 15, 2018, with commencement of work scheduled for February 10, 2018. It was agreed that Russian geologists would be able to engage in primary exploration of the fields even before the issuance of the license, provided that they would be accompanied by specialists from the Mining Ministry of the CAR. It was noted that «the parties, acting by mutual consent, select the following priority areas for their activities related to research and exploration of the fields and organization of production: Lobaye, Haute-Kotto. The Central African party also notes that one of the key areas with the highest number of diamond fields is situated in the vicinity of the town of Ouadda».
The memorandum also noted that the purpose of providing adequate protection to the fields slated for development justified the presence of armed Russian specialists in CAR. Security arrangements included dispatching Russian specialists to CAR to engage in personal protection of the President and provision of advanced training to CAR servicemen.
The Dossier Center managed to confirm that the above agreements were, indeed, implemented in accordance with the schedule. On October 25, 2017, Yevgeny Khodotov, one of Prigozhin’s employees, registered in CAR a company called Lobaye Invest, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Russian company «M-Finans» (see Attachment C.64). Lobaye Invest specializes in extraction of gold and diamonds, particularly in the prefectures of Lobaye and Haute-Kotto and, presumably, at the Ndassima Gold Mine. On April 4, 2018, Lobaye Invest was granted a permit to develop gold fields in the vicinity of four Central African towns: Bangassou, Ouadda, Bria, and Sam Ouandja.
It should be noted that previously Yevgeny Khodotov held the position of General Director of M-Finans. Subsequently Yevgeny Khodotov sold the company to Elena Kochina (see Attachment B19). Khodotov’s name was also found on the website of the League of Veterans of RUBOP (Regional Division for Combatting Organized Crime) in Saint-Petersburg. According to Denis Korotkov, a Novaya Gazeta journalist, Khodotov worked for the Chief Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for the North-Western Federal District. Korotkov notes that many employees of Prigozhin’s Security Service previously served at that particular unit.
Among other internal documents of the «Company», the Dossier Center managed to obtain the list of project founders as of November 2018; in that list, Dmitry Sergeyevich Syty (rather than Yevgeny Khodotov) is named as the General Director of Lobaye Invest (see Attachment C.65).
According to the data available to the Dossier Center, Dmitry Sytyi is one of the chief assistants and interpreters of Valery Zakharov. It was Syty who corresponded with employees of the Russian Embassy in CAR with respect to the operations of the «Company», and it was with him that diplomats coordinated their responses to enquiries filed by the relatives of the murdered journalists. Dmitry Sytyi is fluent in English, French, and Spanish. According to his CV, upon graduation from the State University of Economy and Finance, he studied at the International University of Catalonia and the SKEMA Business School (Paris) (see Attachment B20). The relevant record in the SPARK-Interfax system indicates that Syty is a co-owner of the company «TF Silhouette» in Saint-Petersburg. Together with Yevgeny Khodotov, Dmitry Sytyi was among the seven M Invest specialists who arrived in the CAR back on September 21, 2017, at the invitation of President Touadéra.
The Dossier Center has obtained a list of employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Internet Research Agency». In that list, Dmitry Sytyi is posted as an employee of the Translation Section responsible for manipulating public opinion [Manipulation Publicist] (see Attachment C.66). The list also contains the name of Kirill Romanovsky [Disinformation Specialist] (see Attachment C.67).
In February 2019, Current Time [a TV channel] reviewed the accounting records of M-Finans, M Invest, Megaline, and certain other firms associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin. It was established that payments had been made both to the companies owned by the businessman and to accounts held by third-party contractors, and that companies affiliated with Prigozhin, such as M-Finans, M Invest, Concord Management and Consulting, Credo, Combined Works «Concord», Concord M, Business Project, Megaline, Service K, Broker Expert, Lizena, InvestGlobalGroup, and New Technologies SPA regularly transferred cash to each other under loan agreements.
Prigozhin’s CAR operations are conducted through several legal entities – M-Finans, M Invest, and Lobaye Invest. Payroll sheets of those companies that have been obtained by the Dossier Center list Russian instructors (employed by the Security Service), interpreters and politologists (political strategists). All those people are part of the «Company», the umbrella project initiated by Yevgeny Prigozhin and covering multiple areas of operations beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. Several employees of the «Company» are identified in the payroll sheets by their PMC Wagner ID badge numbers starting with the letter «M». For example, Valery Zakharov, Head of Advisory Group, is assigned number «M-5658», while Aleksandr Zalichev, Sniper and Weapons Coach, two-time Target Shooting Champion of the Russian Federation, is assigned number «M-0197» (see Attachment B10).
In December 2017, the UN Security Council Committee received a notification from the Russian Federation regarding the training of Central African defense and security forces by 5 military and 170 civilian Russian instructors for a period of one year. The sources of the Dossier Center in CAR have confirmed that the so-called Russian private military company (PMC) provides security and air transportation services to Lobaye Invest. The Dossier Center has obtained documents proving that the «Company» uses two Cessna 182T aircraft for air transportation in the CAR: (1) Registration Number RA-67717 (owner: M-Finans; pilots: Igor Baybakov and Aleksandr Kalinbet, employees of Lobaye Invest), and Registration Number RA-67581 (owner: M Invest) (see Attachments B22a, B22b).
Photographs made in the CAR office of the «Company» in May 2018 show that at least four AK-47 assault rifles were stored on the premises (similar firearms were used to shoot the journalists). The weapons were freely accessible to civil personnel of the «Company» (interpreters, politologists, etc.). «Company» employees visited the shooting range on multiple occasions (see Attachments C.68.a, C.68.b, C.68.c, C.68.d).
The «politologists» listed in payroll sheets are assigned to a separate area of operations of the «Company» where their key tasks are to conduct sociological research, gather intelligence, and manipulate public opinion. Incidentally, activities related to «social policy and information matters» were named as one of the critical strategic initiatives in the memorandum signed by representatives of the Russian Federation affiliated with Prigozhin and representatives of the CAR Government on October 7, 2017 (see Attachment B18). Those activities included, among other things, «building up awareness of the program of the President of the Central African Republic among the general population, and creation of a positive image with a view to improve capital investment climate».
The Dossier Center examined an internal presentation prepared by employees of the «Company» to assess the results of its operations in the CAR during the period from October 2017 to October 2018. From that presentation, it follows that the «Company’s» «politologists» were charged with organization of humanitarian assistance, provision of information support to the policies pursued by President Touadéra, and sociological research (see Attachment B23).
Yevgeny Prigozhin has continuously denied any links to both PMC Wagner and commercial entities operating in CAR, Sudan, Madagascar, South Africa, and other countries. Nevertheless, materials obtained by the Dossier Center indicate that Yevgeny Prigozhin is personally involved in the African project, and exercises systemic control over the operations of the «Company».
For example, the Dossier Center has obtained a document from M Invest, a company affiliated with Prigozhin, addressed to Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and signed personally by Yevgeny Prigozhin (see Attachment B24). The document contains a request to provide assistance with accelerated processing of applications for Russian entry visas filed by two CAR ministers (Thierry Herve Oronfei-Fiogbia and Rameaux Claude Bireau) and one citizen of South Sudan (Issa Hassan Mohamed Abouna). The visit to discuss joint projects with M Invest was scheduled for August 23–28, 2017. The document was registered by the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation under No. 6616 on August 21, 2017.
The Dossier Center established that operations conducted by Yevgeny Prigozhin in CAR and other African countries are actively supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. For example, in correspondence between S.I. Lobanov, former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the CAR, and A.M. Glushenkov, representative of the African Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the latter notes that the Office of M.L. Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, has repeatedly shown interest in issuing visas to three foreign citizens (see Attachment C.69).
As noted above, Konstantin Lekhov, Attaché of the Russian Embassy in the CAR, agreed his responses to the relatives of one of the murdered journalists with Dmitry Sytyi, an interpreter from a private company. Lekhov also forwarded to that employee of the «Company» internal documents sealed with the seal of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (see Attachments B15a, B15b). Review of certain other documents leads to the conclusion that representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not only closely cooperate with Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company», but also coordinate their activities with it.
The Dossier Center has also discovered proof of close coordination of activities of Prigozhin’s «Company» with the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. For example, it is a known fact that the military base in Berengo is used both by instructors dispatched to CAR by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, and by employees of the «Company» identified in its internal documents by their PMC Wagner ID badge numbers starting with the letter «M». Even though Yevgeny Prigozhin is not an official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, he personally participates in intergovernmental ministerial meetings. In November 2018, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper published a video featuring a meeting between the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and the Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Besides Shoygu, the Russian party was represented by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, and Yevgeny Prigozhin. Participants of the meeting discussed the situation in Libya and the Middle East, where Prigozhin has both potential interests and ongoing projects (Libya, Syria, Egypt). The Dossier Center has also discovered that employees of the «Company» has drawn up analytical memorandums for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. This conclusion is supported, in particular, by the document «Libya for Shoygu», March 20, 2019, whose metadata indicate that it was authored by Pyotr Bychkov, Head of the «Company’s» «back office» (see Attachment B25). Shoygu is not the only representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation with whom employees of the «Company» share such reports. According to the e-mails exchanged between Mikhail Potepkin, M Invest Regional Director for the Sudan, and Pyotr Bychkov, Head of the «Back Office», on April 8, 2018, the memorandum «countries of Africa» that they had developed was intended for Kostryukov, an employee of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (see Attachment C.70). The document contained an analysis of political and economic developments in 15 African countries.
Numerous confirmations of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s personal involvement in the activities of the «Company» can be found in its internal correspondence that was obtained by the Dossier Center. A significant share of correspondence between employees working in Saint Petersburg («back office»), Sudan, CAR, and Madagascar is dedicated to discussing the tasks set by the «chief» («Yevgeny Viktorovich»). In addition to regular work meetings, the employees mention talking to Prigozhin using a protected communication channel. Yevgeny Prigozhin personally coordinates the current operations of the «Company», formulates its tasks and supervises their achievement, and independently deals with HR tasks by appointing people to certain positions or personally firing them. That assumption, in particular, is supported by the message from Yevgeny Kopot (CAR-based politologist) to Nadezhda Kramar (assistant to Pyotr Bychkov, Head of the «Back Office») dated February 10, 2019: «The Chief has always issued instructions personally rather than through coordinators» (see Attachment C.71).
The same chat contains proof that Yevgeny Prigozhin not only coordinates the «Company’s» provocations directed at representatives of the Russian opposition, but also participates in such provocations. For example, in February 2019, the Telegram channel «Nezygar» published photographs of Aleksey Navalny and Yevgeny Prigozhin accompanied by the following text: «At about 13:00 on February 2, 2019, Navalny finished his meeting on the 6th floor of the Sokos Hotel (8th Line of Vasilyevsky Island 11–13) with Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin». In her correspondence with Yevgeny Kopot on February 4, 2019, Nadezhda Kramar maintains that in reality it was a fake concocted by Yevgeny Prigozhin:
06:36 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar]: it’s all simple. yesterday was a FAKE. and now the opposition is furious
06:40 Evg Kopot [Yevgeny Kopot]: What fake?
06:36 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar forwards message from the Telegram channel «Nezygar»]
At about 13:00 on February 2, 2019, Navalny finished his meeting on the 6th floor of the Sokos Hotel (8th Line of Vasilyevsky Island 11–13) with Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin. After the meeting, Navalny left the hotel by a Volkswagen motor vehicle with license plate number V677VE198. Prigozhin walked on foot to the building at Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment 7, and entered it.
06:36 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar]: btw)) I was told how it happened, the chief went there, had some pics taken, and then left
06:44 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar]: so, navalny came to us in Saint-Petersburg, and he stayed next to Concord office, with the Sokos hotel right around the corner
06:45 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar]: to hold some event for his sectarians at two o’clock
Then Nadezhda Kramar forwards 13 messages from various Telegram channels about the fake «meeting».
07:28 Nadine [Nadezhda Kramar]: He’s trolling ))). There was really no meeting
Chats between employees of the «Company» mention several officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and representatives of African governments.
For example, in correspondence between Mikhail Potepkin and Yevgeny Kopot we see the names of Mikhail Bogdanov (Sergey Lavrov’s deputy) and Faustin-Archange Touadéra (CAR President):
April 15, 2018
03:09 Evg Kopot [Yevgeny Kopot]: Talked with the chief. Brought up the idea of speeding things up with the African Union
03:10 Misha Potepkin [Mikhail Potepkin]: so how about that idea
03:10 Evg Kopot [Yevgeny Kopot]: He took it well. Told me what to do, that I can kick Bogdanov’s ass. I say, I am waiting for you, we meet the African Union ambassador, and then start kicking ass. And he is like, OK.
(see Attachment C.73)
April 28, 2018
03:28 Evg Kopot [Yevgeny Kopot]: Nastya called, said the chief wants to talk
03:28 Evg Kopot [Yevgeny Kopot]: The chief said we should go through scenarios, for T [Faustin-Archange Touadéra], like we did in the sands [Syria], if–then
07:03 Misha Potepkin [Mikhail Potepkin]: the chief just called)) mocked me a little
From electronic correspondence between the employees, it follows that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the «Company», ordered that all FX payments be completed only with his personal approval: «By order of the Head of the company, as of today, January 24, 2018, all foreign exchange payments are to be approved by attachment of the Head’s personal seal directly to the relevant request printed out by the originator from 1S UU. <…> Foreign exchange payment requests that do not bear the Head’s seal and have the required documents will be turned down». After that, some of the approved documents were sealed with «Prigozhin’s seal» (see Attachment B26). This is true, for example, for the chart of organization of M Invest, and for the request to issue cash against receipt to pay for Diesel fuel purchases, as filed by the «Company’s» employees deployed in the CAR (Oleg Vyacheslavovich Erokhin and «Prival»). An impression of the same seal was found on documents approving PMC Wagner employees’ medical treatment costs. Together with other known facts, this leads us to a highly probably assumption that the seal may have been used personally by Yevgeny Prigozhin, i.e. that he was familiar with the contents of such documents and approved them.
From internal correspondence between employees of the «Company», we also learnt that Yevgeny Prigozhin, Valery Zakharov, Sergey Lavrov, Mikhail Bogdanov, Mikhail Potepkin, and Yevgeny Kopot were awarded the Central African Order of Reconciliation (l’Ordre de la Réconciliation) (see Attachment C.75a). The award was invented and designed by the «back office». The lists of potential recipients were also compiled in Saint-Petersburg (see Attachments C.76.c, C.76.s, C.75.e).
The documents obtained by the Dossier Center confirm that the «Company» interfered in internal political affairs of numerous African countries, including, in addition to CAR, such countries as Madagascar, South Africa, and Sudan. A legal assessment of that fact is provided in the next section of this report.
While reviewing the foreign activities of the «Company», experts of the Dossier Center provided a legal assessment of the operations conducted by persons associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin outside of the Russian Federation.
Several years ago, it became clear that Prigozhin’s interests had gone not only beyond his restaurant and catering business, but also beyond Russia’s borders. The mass media note that «the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin has become synonymous with the informal presence of Russia in conflict areas where it has its interests, from Syria to West Africa and Venezuela«. That presence is maintained by PMC Wagner mercenaries who were first seen in the Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic in 2014.
The virtually complete absence of information about PMC Wagner in official sources is not surprising, as the operations conducted by the company were criminalized in 1996 with the approval of a new version of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation. Article 359 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation treats mercenary activities as a separate crime. The notion «mercenary» is defined in a note to the article: a «mercenary» is a person acting for material compensation who is not a citizen of the state involved in an armed conflict or military hostilities, does not permanently reside in the territory of such state, and it not dispatched to such state to discharge official duties. The key words here are «armed conflict or military hostilities». This is where legal treatment of mercenary activities by the Russian criminal law differs from international law: in the Russian criminal law doctrine, mercenary activities are defined much narrower compared to international laws and regulations.
According to international law, a «mercenary» is any person who is specially recruited locally or abroad to fight in an armed conflict, is motivated essentially by the desire for private gain, is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict, is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict, and has not been sent by a state which is not a party to the conflict on official duty. Therefore, mercenaries are «recruited to fight or attack in a country or conflict in which they are not directly involved». According to part 2 of Article 1 of the 1989 Convention, the term «mercenary» also means any other person who, in any other situation, is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of participating in a concerted act of violence aimed at overthrowing a government or otherwise undermining the constitutional order of a state, or undermining the territorial integrity of a state.
The Convention notes that mercenaries are recruited, used, financed and trained for activities which violate principles of international law, such as those of sovereign equality, political independence, territorial integrity of states and self-determination of peoples. The Convention establishes that mercenary activities violate the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and other international laws and regulations, and that any person involved in such activities is subject to criminal prosecution or extradition.
The problems related to mercenary activities and the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights are discussed in Resolution of the UN General Assembly dated January 23, 2017. In paragraph 12 of the Resolution, the General Assembly condemns any form of impunity granted to perpetrators of mercenary activities and to those responsible for the use, recruitment, financing and training of mercenaries, and urges all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law, to bring them, without distinction, to justice. The Resolution pays considerable attention to the activities of private companies offering international military consultancy and security services, and proposes to impose a ban on such companies intervening in armed conflicts or actions to destabilize constitutional regimes. The Resolution makes special note of the need to register and license such private military companies in order to ensure that their services neither impede the exercise of human rights nor violate human rights in the recipient country. In paragraph 7, the General Assembly emphasizes its utmost concern over the impact of the activities of private military and security companies on the exercise of human rights, in particular when operating in armed conflicts, and notes that private military and security companies and their personnel are rarely held accountable for violations of human rights».
The fact that Russia has withdrawn its signature under the Rome Statute and no longer recognizes the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court means that it cannot be held accountable under the Rome Statute for its actions in Ukraine, Syria, and other countries, including actions perpetrated with the participation of mercenaries trained by PMC Wagner. Nevertheless, mercenary activities in Ukraine have not gone unnoticed: in 2017 PMC Wagner was included in the US Sanctions List for its participation in the undeclared war in Ukraine. As noted in a US Treasury press release, PMC Wagner has recruited and sent soldiers to fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine and, as a result, was «designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine». Dmitry Utkin, leader of PMC Wagner, was designated at the same time and for the same reasons, as well as for «acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, PMC Wagner» . Yevgeny Prigozhin had been designated one year before for his involvement in military hostilities conducted by Russia in Ukraine.
Information regarding the possible presence of Russian mercenaries in CAR began to emerge in the spring of 2018. Reuters, citing local mass media, stated that PMC Wagner had been active in CAR ever since Russia had supplied light weapons to the country’s security forces in 2018. In particular, hundreds of the «Company’s» instructors were used to train local soldiers. According to a report prepared by the UN Security Council Panel of Experts and published on December 14, 2018, in May 2018 and October 2018 Russian instructors were involved in transporting materiel from Sudan into CAR for the construction of hospitals and vehicles, respectively. Until April 2018, the presence of Russian instructors among the Presidential Guard was part of the training exercise. Thereafter, the instructors were replaced by six Russian nationals employed by the Central African private company Sewa Security. Sewa Security is also known to have been used to reinforce the CAR President’s security. Sewa Security employees were seen next to the President Faustin-Archange Touadéra in August 2018. The Dossier Center has obtained confirmation that Sewa Security documents were maintained by employees of Prigozhin’s «Company».
From a memorandum signed by representatives of the Russian Federation affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin and members of the CAR Government that recently became available to the Dossier Center, it follows that protection of the CAR President was one of the priority cooperation areas designated at the meeting in Sochi on October 7, 2017: «The Russian party also believes that it is necessary to effect preliminary selection of, and provide advanced training to, members of the personal security team of the President of the Central African Republic. In connection with the foregoing, the Russian Federation is prepared to supply an armored vehicle and modern security equipment, and dispatch an expert team to organize personal protection of the President of the Central African Republic». Another agreement between the Russian party and the CAR Government, as listed in the document, dealt with «creating conditions for protection by assuring free passage through the Sudan»: «During the discussion, the parties came to an agreement that the presence of armed foreign specialists may be justified in this context by the need to protect mineral deposits development areas. Those specialists could be disguised as employees of a Sudanese security firm». To perform that task, the parties resolved to create a secret military training center in the Ouadda airfield: «The Central African party recognized the need to create a training center for the members of the National Guard who are citizens of the Central African Republic».
Section 2.5 of the document entitled «Matters Related to Interaction with the UN and MINUSCA, Including Deployment of Armed Forces and Their Legalization in the Territory of CAR» deserves special notice. It says that, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution No. 2127 dated December 5, 2013, deployment of armed forces and their use for protection and security purposes is possible only at the request of the CAR President as authorized by the UN Security Council. The Central African party noted that in practice it may take up to three months to obtain such authorization, but it «sees no obstacles that would prevent creation of a presidential security unit pending receipt of the required authorization. Should the UN and MINUSCA raise any issues in connection with that situation, the Government of the Central African Republic will provide justification for the presence of Russian military personnel».
Following negotiations between Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the Central African Republic (Sochi, October 9, 2017), Russia requested that the UN Security Council grant an exemption from the CAR arms embargo to enable the transfer to the CAR government of military equipment and the launch of a local military personnel training program. In December, the UN granted to Russia an authorization to deliver the first weapons shipment to CAR. On December 26, 2017, the UN Security Council Committee received a notification from the Russian Federation regarding the training of Central African defense and security forces by 5 military and 170 civilian Russian instructors for a period of one year.
The first training session for CAR national defense and security personnel conducted by military (5) and civil (170) Russian instructors, as notified to the Committee on December 26, 2017, was completed on March 31, 2018. Training took place in the territory of the CAR and the Sudan. Since April 2018, Russian instructors also started the training of 160 policemen and 50 gendarmes at a military installation in Berengo. It is also known that the agreement between CAR and Russia envisaged delivery of grenade launchers, machine guns and pistols and provision of training to two battalions (1,300) in using those weapons. From an internal presentation prepared by Prigozhin’s employees, it follows that as of October 7, 2018, Russian instructors had trained 1,227 FACA soldiers.
By December 2018, Russian instructors also trained 102 policemen and 117 gendarmes at a military installation in Berengo. It is known that Russian instructors are deployed in the cities of Bambari, Bangassou, Bangui, Berengo, Bouar, Dekoa, Paoua, and Sibut.
During the period from January 26, 2018, to February 7, 2018, nine aircraft arrived in Bangui M’Poko International Airport to deliver weapons and munitions within the framework of military cooperation between the governments of the Russian Federation and the Central African Republic. According to a memorandum dated February 6, 2018, prepared by Christian Bader, French Ambassador to the CAR (a copy of which is available to the Dossier Center), the aircraft were unloaded by Russians, usually at night, in the presence of EU Training Mission representatives (while UNMAS representatives properly authorized by the UN Special Envoy Office were conspicuously absent at all times), whereupon the cargo was taken to Camp de Roux which was not properly equipped to store weapons and munitions (see Attachments B27a, B27b). The memo also expresses concern in connection with the lack of control over deliveries: «Even though Russia asserts that its actions are «completely transparent», at this time there is no reliable information as to the quantity of delivered weapons or the plans for their subsequent deployment». Moreover, the memo noted that the first 22 Russian instructors who had arrived in December 2017 may have been using fake passports. According to the French Embassy, several dozen Russian nationals who arrived in the CAR usually came in small groups, some of which included representatives of private companies. Berengo was indicated as the key area of deployment of Russian nationals outside of Bangui. About 15 Russian nationals (Sewa Security employees) were already on site preparing the infrastructure required for training CAR military personnel; the first group of CAR soldiers (200 people) had been sent for training to Sudan, specifically, to a military base to the north of Khartoum. The French Embassy memo contains the following conclusion: «Weapons deliveries to the CAR Government increasingly look like an «entry ticket» for Russian economic interests, in particular, oligarchs from V. Putin’s inner circle, who are served on site by shady dealers and various intermediaries, some linked to Syria, Sudan, and Qatar, some even involved in illegal trade in resources conducted by armed groups which consist of former Séléka supporters thriving on kickbacks».
Information on close contacts between Prigozhin’s «Company» and the rebels, as obtained by the Dossier Center, is presented in Section 2 of this report. That information is corroborated by Christian Bader’s memo: «…The Russians are establishing contacts with representatives of «ex-Séléka» armed groups, in particular, its radical wing represented by the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) headed by Noureddine Adam and Abdoulaye Hissène, an entity which is controlled by the National Security Service of Chad and receives weapon shipments from the neighboring Darfur. Several sources (including Mahamat Kamoun, former CAR Prime Minister, with whom I met yesterday) report that negotiations are under way between the FPRC and Russian emissaries (including Yevgeny Khodotov), with meetings held at the border between the CAR and the Sudan. In addition, we have confirmed information provided by a US colleague according to which at the end of January Sudanese intelligence organized negotiations in Khartoum between Noureddine Adam and a delegation from Russia. According to Mr. Kamoun who maintains that he is in direct contact with the FPRC, members of that group are currently saying they have no intention to end the dialog brokered by the African Union negotiating commission, and wish to know what position France has taken with respect to those initiatives, while they apparently still find it hard to formulate their own position on the matter».
Employees of the «Company», including Valery Zakharov, were directly involved in arranging the Khartoum meeting on August 27–28, 2018, at which Central African armed groups signed a declaration of agreement.
Evidence that rebel leaders support is personally coordinated by Prigozhin can be found in internal chats between employees of the «Company». For example, on May 1, 2018, Yevgeny Kopot wrote to Dmitry Sytyi: «For Nour [Noureddine Adam]: the chief [Yevgeny Prigozhin] asks him to release a communiqué saying he condemns the attack on the church. So that the UN gets the idea that Nour is for peace in CAR» (see Attachment C.77).
To attend the Khartoum meeting, «ex-Séléka» leaders Noureddine Adam and Abdoulaye Hissène violated the travel ban. According to the UN Security Council, FPRC rebels, together with Russian instructors, escorted a convoy that traveled from Am Dafok to CAR through the towns of Birao, Ouadda and Bria between October 29, 2018, and early November 2018.
Activities by individuals controlled by Prigozhin are often associated with not only potential, but real threats of violating human rights. For example, in the beginning of 2019, Mahamat Nour Mamadou, a CAR citizen, accused Russian soldiers (or mercenaries) of having tortured him for five days after he had been detained by Central African Armed Forces (FACA) soldiers on suspicion of belonging to an «ex-Séléka» militia. He was taken to the town hall where the FACA and the Russians were based. According to Mamadou, Russian military personnel interrogated him about his alleged ties to a rebel group. After the interrogation, the instructors tied his hands, covered his head with a jacket, and punched him. Then they took Mamadou to their base where they hit him with chains and iron batons, and cut him in the foot with a knife, and also on the arms and the shoulder. According to Mamadou’s testimony, the instructors also cut off his finger (see Attachment B28). According to the UN, Mamadou was released on January 15 after internal security forces had intervened.
The UN mission in CAR investigated the case and produced a detailed report. UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci said that, based on statements and physical evidence, the UN mission could confirm that the victim had been ill-treated and tortured. The UN mission asked the CAR authorities to take relevant follow-up action in connection with the cases where CAR-stationed Russian soldiers or mercenaries tortured detainees, and shared all supporting documents. It is not known whether CAR law enforcement bodies attempted to investigate the incident with a view to hold responsible the individuals involved in that grave crime.
Dossier Center sources reported an incident that took place in the autumn of 2018, demonstrating the scope of influence that Russian instructors have in the CAR, where they enjoy virtually unlimited control over certain parts of the country’s territory. According to available information, a MINUSCA convoy traveling to Dekoa was stopped by armed Russian nationals. UN representatives attempted to explain that they were members of the MINUSCA mission, but the Russian «instructors» pointed their assault rifles at them and prevented them from moving on.
The following provision of the strategic agreement between representatives of the Russian Federation affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin and members of the CAR Government dated October 7, 2017, also causes grave concern: «The parties agree that Russia has the right to effect payments in cash, as all banks in the CAR make fund transfers through correspondent accounts in France. In the opinion of the Central African party, cash can be delivered only by private aircraft». A Dossier Center investigation has revealed instances of illegal, unrecorded, and undeclared (for taxation purposes) utilization of «Company» cash in the form of cash operations which are not registered or supported by official accounting entries, bribes, and «assistance» to armed rebel groups.
On February 16, 2018, Yevgeny Prigozhin, certain companies controlled by him (Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering), Internet Research Agency and 13 of its employees were indicted by the Grand Jury for the District of Columbia. According to the Indictment, beginning as early as 2014, Internet Research Agency financed by Prigozhin and companies he controlled, including Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering (collectively, «Concord») began operations to interfere with the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election.
According to paragraph 3 of the Indictment, Prigozhin and Concord spent significant funds to further the Agency’s operations and to pay the indicted Agency employees, along with other uncharged Agency employees, salaries and bonuses for their work at the Agency.
The defendants, posing as US persons and creating false US personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract US audiences. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real US persons to post on Agency-controlled social media accounts.
It should be mentioned that in May 2019 MBK Media published work plans of employees of Prigozhin’s «Company» obtained by the Dossier Center. Those documents contain the following information: «In line with the strategy of the company’s American unit, there is a plan to create a pan-African state in the territory of the states of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Emergence of such state will undermine territorial integrity, military and economic potential of the USA». Key activities included «establishment of a network of training camps for black activists in the territory of Africa to provide ideological training and basic combat training», «recruitment of African Americans residing in the poorest cities of the USA who have a track record of involvement in organized crime groups and imprisonment», and «involvement of members of radical black movements in defiance events in major cities with a view to destabilize the situation within the USA».
The document describing the strategy of «Negroid race chauvinism to counter the USA» was sent in January 2018 to Mikhail Potepkin, Regional Director of Prigozhin’s company M Invest. The Dossier Center managed to identify its sender as Ceyhun Nasimi ogly Aslanov, an employee of the Internet Research Agency and one of the 13 Russian citizens who were charged with attempted interference in US elections.
It should be noted that the activities of the «Company» designed to interfere in the political systems of the US, CAR, Sudan, South Africa, Madagascar, and certain other states go beyond national law. Such activities are condemned and prohibited by a number of international legal acts; interference in the internal affairs of a state is inadmissible from international law perspective. The Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty dated December 21, 1965, says that «full observance of the principle of the non-intervention of states in the internal and external affairs of other states is essential to the fulfilment of the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Direct intervention, subversion and all forms of indirect intervention are contrary to these principles and, consequently, constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations» . Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States dated December 9, 1981, stipulates that no state has the right to intervene or interfere in any form or for any reason whatsoever in the internal and external affairs of other states. According to the Declaration, the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states includes, inter alia, the sovereign and inalienable right of a state to determine its own political system. This means that interference in elections, as a key institution underpinning the operation of the political system, is also impermissible. The principle of non-intervention includes «the right of states and peoples to have free access to information and to develop fully, without interference, their system of information and mass media and to use their information media in order to promote their political, social, economic and cultural interests and aspirations» . Article 2-II – j stipulates «the duty of a state to abstain from any defamatory campaign, vilification or hostile propaganda for the purpose of intervening or interfering in the internal affairs of other states».
Taking into consideration the evidence, as presented in this report, of illegal financing of irregular militarized units with unclear legal status and questionable legitimacy, and of money laundering, the authors of this report urge national governments and international organizations, including the United Nations Organization, to pay closer attention to potential and actual violations of fundamental principles and norms of international law and human rights caused, whether directly or indirectly, by the activities of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» outside the Russian Federation.
One year after the murders of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko, we draw the following conclusions:
Taking into consideration all the available evidence, the main conclusion of this report is that the official explanation of the murder is indefensible, and that military instructors employed by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s «Company» are probably involved in the incident, while the said «Company» is purposefully seeking to thwart the independent investigation.
The Dossier Center will be insisting that official authorities of the CAR and Russia conduct an honest, independent, and complete investigation of the journalists’ murder.
In the opinion of the Dossier Center, in order to clarify the circumstances of the murder of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko, and to ascertain that the preliminary investigation of this criminal case is conducted in an efficient manner, it is necessary to obtain witness testimony from the following citizens of the Russian Federation:
The Dossier Center would like to express its gratitude to the Novaya Gazeta, MBK Media, Dozhd TV, The Insider, Meduza, Mediazona, Proekt, Fontanka, Radio Liberty, The Bell, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Daily Maverick, Die Zeit, Le Journal du Dimanche, newspapers Vedomosti, Moskovsky Komsomolets, RBC, TV channels Current Time, BBC, NBC, CNN, ARD, France 24, magazine The Time, news agencies Associated Press, Reuters, AFP and Bloomberg, and other mass media for information that was used to investigate the murder of Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko, and Aleksandr Rastorguev.
FACA [Forces Armées Centrafricaines] – Armed Forces of the Central African Republic, created in 1960 to protect the state borders and population of the CAR.
National Gendarmerie – part of the national army whose mission is to maintain law and order, and provide police, administrative and military support. Assures security of people and property, and controls compliance with the existing legislation.
CAR Police – civil entity reporting to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
MINUSCA – United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central Africa (French: Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour La Stabilisation en Centrafrique).
Due to the CAR crisis, on April 10, 2014, the UN Security Council resolved to commence the MINUSCA operation, primarily to protect non-combatants.
Since its establishment, MINUSCA incorporates the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, or BINUCA (French: Bureau Intégré de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en Centrafrique).
Ex-Séléka – rebel group operating in the territory of the CAR; created in 2012 as an alliance of predominantly Muslim groups based in the north of the country; shortly came to power in 2013 to be later disbanded and divided into several smaller groups, such as the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic headed by Noureddine Adam and Abdoulaye Hissène. Séléka is politically associated with the former President Michel Djotodia. Other ex-Séléka factions include the Central African Patriotic Movement headed by Mahamat Al Khatim, and the Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of the Central African Republic headed by Zakaria Damane.
Anti-Balaka – armed CAR militia created to counter the widespread violence committed by ex-Séléka militants. Comprises predominantly Christian and animistic movements that emerged in 2013 as self-defense groups. They were joined by many military men who had deserted from the armed forces. Several coalitions have been created within Anti-Balaka since 2014 despite the lack of clear coordination between its constituent groups. The number of Anti-Balaka militants active in the CAR is estimated at 80–85 thousand. Since February 2017, several Anti-Balaka groups joined forces with restored ex-Séléka factions to fight against the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (one of the ex-Séléka groups) in some CAR prefectures.
Abdoulaye Hissène – rebel leader, head of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic. In May 2017, the UN Security Council Committee included Abdoulaye Hissene in the list of designated individuals as the person «engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the CAR, including acts that threaten or impede the political transition process or the stabilization and reconciliation process or that fuel violence».
Noureddine Adam – rebel leader, head of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic. He was included into the UN Security Council list for having been «involved in planning, directing, or committing acts that violate international human rights law or international humanitarian law, as applicable», and for «providing support for armed groups or criminal networks through illegal exploitation of natural resources».
Sands – Prigozhin’s employees designate Syria as «the sands», Sudan as «Sudak» [zander], and the CAR as «Tsaritsyno» [Tsaritsyno Palace].
«Company» – totality of foreign projects sponsored by Yevgeny Prigozhin (including projects in CAR, Sudan, Madagascar, etc.).
Sibut – town in the Central African Republic, 188 km from the country’s capital Bangui. One of the bases where Russian military instructors are deployed is situated in Sibut. According to the information available to the Dossier Center, in July 2018 there were eleven Russian instructors and one hundred and twenty-two FACA servicemen stationed at the base in Sibut.
Plan International – international non-governmental non-commercial organization created to protect children’s rights.
PMC Wagner ID badge – virtually all Russian instructors in the CAR previously took part in military hostilities in Syria and Ukraine as PMC Wagner members. Employees of the «Company» stationed in the CAR are assigned PMC Wagner ID badge numbers starting with the letter «m».
Internet Research Agency, known as the «troll factory» (whose employees are also dubbed «Olghino trolls» based on the name of the locality where the «factory» is situated) was created in the middle of 2013. Originally, the Agency targeted only the Russian audience, but later its scope of operations was considerable expanded. The two key tasks of the trolls are to glorify the country’s president and his policies (including Putin’s allies in other countries), and discredit and misinform political opponents. In March 2018, the Agency was included in the US Sanctions List.
Orkhan Dzhemal – one of the most experienced military correspondents who has covered events in the Northern Caucasus, South Ossetia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Worked for a number of publications, including Novaya Gazeta and the Russian Newsweek weekly. Was in opposition to the ruling regime and, according to his own words, never changed his opinion throughout the current president’s time in office. Openly criticized the leadership of the country for its actions in Ukraine. Supported the official Moscow position only once, specifically, when covering events in South Ossetia in 2008.
Aleksandr Rastorguev – well-known documentary film-maker whose works were honored by numerous national and international awards and prizes. Repeatedly expressed his disagreement with the policies pursued by President Putin, participated in meetings against falsification of State Duma election results. In 2012, together with Pavel Kostomarov and Aleksey Pivovarov, created a web-based documentary project «Srok» [Term] dedicated to the leaders of the Russian protest movement. In March 2018, was an observer at the presidential election in Chechnya.
Kirill Radchenko – videographer and film editor. Since 2016, cooperated with the ANNA News Agency specializing in covering armed conflicts (Syria, Middle East, Ukraine). Took part in four film-making trips to Syria. In 2017 was part of a team shooting a documentary about events in Aleppo. Like A. Rastorguev, in March 2018 was an observer at the presidential election in Chechnya.
Attachment A1. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675378291 registered in the name of TOMA MARIANA
Attachment A2. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675465314 registered in the name of DOUVOKAMA BIENVENU
Attachment A3. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675717428 registered in the name of TOUAGUENDE KOTOFIO EMMANUEL
Attachment A4. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675742579 registered in the name of HAMMOND BARRET TRAVIS
Attachment A5. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675742582 registered in the name of HAMMOND BARRET TRAVIS
Attachment A6. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675633909 registered in the name of ZAKHAROV VALERY
Attachment A7. Printout of calls to/from phone number +23675167773 registered in the name of MUSTERMANN ERIKA
Attachment B0. Document «CAR Contacts» developed by Rodion Chepel on the Google Docs platform containing contact information for the journalists’ trip to the CAR
Attachment B1. Confirmation of air tickets booking for the flight Moscow – Casablanca – Bangui – Casablanca – Moscow (July 27 – August 17)
Attachment B2. Copy of the record of interrogation of Bienvenue Douvokama dated August 1, 2018
Attachment B3. Translation of the record of interrogation of Bienvenue Douvokama dated August 1, 2018
Attachment B4. Report by MINUSCA employees who arrived at the crime scene at about 06:00 on July 31, 2018
Attachment B5. Certificate of Death issued by Doctor I. Mapouka at the hospital Hôpital Communautaire on August 2, 2018
Attachment B6.Translation of interview with Malemono Hugh Belford, hygienist at Sibut Hospital, recorded in August 2018
Attachment B7. Pay slips for CAR-stationed employees of the Security Service of the «Company» for July 2018
Attachment В8. Pay slips for CAR-stationed employees of the Security Service of the «Company» for August 2018
Attachment В9. Request for the purchase of air tickets for the flight Bangui – Saint-Petersburg (August 5, 2018) in the name of Aleksandr Sotov
Attachment В10. Pay slips for CAR-stationed employees of M-Finans and M Invest for 2018
Attachment В11.Copy of Visa Questionnaire issued by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the CAR and completed by Valery Zakharov
Attachment В12. Browsing history of Kirill Romanovsky for March–August 2018
Attachment В13.Copy of draft contract between Aswar Multi Activities and Meroe Gold (Sudan), a firm affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin
Attachment В14. Permit to enter Sudan in the name of Kirill Romanovsky dated March 26, 2018
Attachment В15а. Application by Roman Radchenko addressed to Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated September 4, 2018, regarding handover of personal effects of Kirill Radchenko
Attachment B15b. Application by Roman Radchenko addressed to Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated September 4, 2018, with an enquiry regarding transportation of bodies to the Russian Federation
Attachment В17. Notice of arrival of M Invest experts at the invitation of Faustin-Archange Touadéra, President of the CAR
Attachment В18. Memorandum on the results of a meeting between representatives of the Russian Federation affiliated with Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Central African party
Attachment B19. Certificate of Transfer of Title to M-Finans from Yevgeny Khodotov to Elena Kocheneva
Attachment В20. Dmitry Sytyi CV
Attachment В21a.Written statement by the elder of the village of Kpakou
Attachment B21b.Translation of written statement by the elder of the village of Kpakou
Attachment B21c.Translation of interview with the elder of the village of Kpakou
Приложения B22a. Permit for the operation of aircraft Cessna 182T (RA-67717) by Lobaye Invest
Attachment B22b. Power of attorney issued by Andrey Mandel, Director of M Invest, for the operation of aircraft Cessna T182T (RA-67581)
Attachment В23.Presentation prepared by employees of the «Company» to assess the results of its operations in the CAR during the period from October 2017 to October 2018
Attachment В24. Application for the issue of Russian visas to CAR and South Sudanese citizens signed by E. Prigozhin
Attachment В25.Analytical report «ливия для шойгу-20.03.19.doc» [Libya for Shoygu, March 20, 2019] prepared by employees of the «Company»
Attachment В26. Invoice issued by Dv-Expert to Broker Expert
Attachment В27a.Copy of memorandum written by Christian Bader, French Ambassador to the CAR
Attachment В27b.Russian translation of memorandum written by Christian Bader, French Ambassador to the CAR
Attachment В28. Photographs from MINUSCA report on the case of Mahamat Nour Mamadou
Attachment B29. Dialogs about Chief, translated to English.