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Russia says reporters killed in Africa were not tortured

August 2, 2018
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Flowers are placed by portraits of slain journalists Alexander Rastorguyev, Kirill Radchenko and Orkhan Dzhemal, at the Russian journalists Union building in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. Russian journalists who were killed in the Central African Republic had been working on an investigation into Russian private military contractors and the mining industries there, their editor said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

MOSCOW (AP) — Investigators found no apparent signs of torture on the bodies of three Russian journalists who were killed in Central African Republic this week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The journalists were in the country investigating a Russian military contractor and Russia’s interests in CAR’s gold, diamond and uranium mining industries when their vehicle was ambushed late Monday, their colleagues have said.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the bodies of the men — Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal — had gunshot wounds, but no injuries suggesting they were tortured, Russian news agencies reported.

Lt. Rock Benam, commander of a gendarmerie unit in the attack area, said the journalists’ cameras and other equipment had been taken but other bags and their press cards remained in the vehicle with the driver, who escaped.

Eric Dider Tambo, attorney general in the capital, Bangui, said an investigation has been opened into the deaths.

The reporters’ colleagues have said the killings could be linked to the journalists’ investigative work. Exiled Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who financed them, has vowed to investigate the slayings.

Khodorkovsky, who now lives in London after spending 10 years in a Russian prison, said the reporters were looking into a Russian private security firm operating in CAR, known as Wagner. The company is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg entrepreneur dubbed “Putin’s chef” for his close ties to the Kremlin.

CAR officials said the journalists were kidnapped by about 10 men wearing turbans and speaking Arabic. Their driver fled and reported the ambush.

Officials in Moscow said earlier this week that CAR was a very dangerous place and that the government advised Russians against traveling there.

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Hippolyte Marboua in Bangui, Central African Republic, contributed.

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