Skip to main content

Journalist claims killers of three Russian reporters in Africa came from separatist Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine

Pyotr Verzilov, the publisher of the investigative news site Mediazona and a member of the activist group Pussy Riot, made an announcement today regarding his investigation of the murders of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic. Verzilov said those who killed Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko on July 30 while the three were collecting footage on Russian mercenaries may have traveled to the Central African Republic from the Donbass region of Ukraine.

A separatist war has been ongoing in the Donbass since the spring of 2014. Pro-Russian groups there have declared soveriegnty as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and extensive reports have testified to covert Russian military intervention in the region.

In an interview with RTVI, Verzilov said, “The people who conducted this operation flew in from the Donbass and then flew back.” He did not specify who he suspected had killed the journalists but said he believed “Prigozhin’s structures are tied to this whole story.” Evgeny Prigozhin is a businessman and caterer with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is also widely believed to be deeply involved in the Russian private military company Wagner. Verzilov said preliminary evidence does not indicate that either Wagner soldiers or local armed groups were responsible for the killings. He concluded, “This investigation will continue until we find out who did this.”

In September of 2018, Verzilov was hospitalized in Moscow due to a sudden loss of sight and speech abilities. He spent approximately two weeks in a Berlin clinic. Doctors there as well as Verzilov’s relatives believe the journalist and activist may have been poisoned, and Verzilov himself suspects that he was attacked because of his investigative work concerning the murders in the Central African Republic.