Three Russian journalists who were killed in the Central Africa Republic this week were attacked as they resisted robbers, the foreign ministry said on Friday.
The three journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev and Kirill Radchenko, shot dead on July 30, “were attacked by unidentified people with the aim of robbery and were killed while attempting to resist”, the foreign ministry said in a statement, citing spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
The ministry statement said it was based on initial findings of the investigation in CAR.
The journalists were in the war-torn country to shoot footage of a shadowy Russian mercenary group called Wagner whose soldiers have fought in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, according to Western and independent Russian media reports as well as foreign governments.
They were working for a media project founded by self-exiled Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who lives in Britain after spending a decade in prison in Russia.
Russian officials and state media have sought to downplay the journalists’ assignment. There has been no official acknowledgement of Wagner’s role in conflicts or casualties among its fighters.
In December 2017, Russia was authorised by the UN to provide the armed forces in CAR with weapons and training.
Experts have said that the officially announced five military and 170 civilian instructors could be part of Wagner.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova at a briefing on Friday said that Russian military in CAR were only working to train local troops, not taking part in combat themselves.