The killing of three reporters in the Central African Republic pulls a private, pro-Kremlin military company out of the shadows. The murder of three Russian journalists last week in a remote area of the Central African Republic, the world’s poorest country according to the World Bank, has turned a spotlight on what looks like a big Kremlin play for influence and resources in Africa.
Where China has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to entrench itself there, Russia is offering its brute force and strong appetite for risk. It’s already making headway.
The three journalists, Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko, were in the Central African Republic working on an investigative film about the Wagner private military company. That’s a secretive Russian contractor linked by news reports to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg catering entrepreneur close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prigozhin is also one of 12 people indicted in the U.S. along with the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm he funded that has been caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Wagner has provided mercenaries to fight in the eastern Ukraine and Syria, and it’s probably also present in the Central African Republic and neighboring Sudan.
Back in March, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russia was working with the government of Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera to explore the country’s natural resources on a concession basis.
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