In late July, three Russian citizens – Orhan Dzemal, Kiril Radchenko and Aleksandr Rastorguev – were killed in the Central African Republic by “unknown gunment”. The aforementioned Russians were allegedly making a documentary on the so-called Vagner Private Military Company. The incident triggered a eries of wide speculations in Western MSM and Russian opposition media.
During a press briefing on August 3, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on “misinformation about the Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic” (source):
We are shocked by the brazen misinformation the media has been spreading. Certain articles are beyond any human understanding of ethics and legality. They do everything in their power to misinterpret the information, data and reality of the situation with the Russian instructors in the Central African Republic (CAR), despite the fact that the corresponding official information has been published by official resources of Russian ministries and agencies. In this sense, and also in the context of the questions we have received from you, I would like to mention this matter once again. Let me remind you that this information has been available from official Foreign Ministry resources for several months. As of today, 175 instructors are working in the Central African Republic, including 5 military ones and 170 civilians. The Russian experts have been sent there on a lawful basis: on the request from the country’s president to provide cooperation in training Central African military personnel. The Russian experts’ main task is to provide free training to local soldiers on how to use weapons and equipment provided to the CAR by the Russian Defence Ministry in late January – early February of 2018.
As we have noted many times, they were provided in strict accordance with international law. We would like to emphasise once again that the permission of the UN Security Council Committee 2127 on the CAR was issued according to procedure. The acceptance, transport, security and placement of Russian weapons at Bangui storage sites were carried out in cooperation with the UN Stabilisation Mission in the CAR and with participation of observers from the European Union Training Mission and the UN Mine Action Service.
The Russian experts have helped train 600 Central African soldiers, many of which have already begun fighting illegal military groups and protecting civilians.
The Russian weapons and instructors were sent to the Central African Republic during an escalation of the military and political crisis to help the local authorities address the impending tasks of reforming security forces and upgrading its personnel’s military skills. In addition, we would like to stress that the Russian military experts take no part in combat in the CAR; training military personnel is their only responsibility.
As of today, work is being done to update the contractual basis of bilateral relations in the military sphere. The corresponding draft agreement is being coordinated at the moment.
Unfortunately, due to the difficult security situation in the country we cannot speak about any specific time when the mission of the Russian experts will be over. This will depend on the improvement of the situation on the ground and the progress in Central African soldiers’ training among other things. We proceed from the premise that as peace and security in the Central African Republic are restored and the national reconciliation process progresses, the country will be able to regain control of its territory, which will make the presence of foreign experts unnecessary.
I would like to stress once more that Russian cooperation is provided in line with the general efforts of the international community to strengthen the national law enforcement agencies in the country. We understand why the experts’ actions attract such attention in this situation but we cannot understand why this information is being so badly distorted.