Three Russian journalists were tragically killed in the Central African Republic.
It’s been revealed in the week and a half since their deaths that they were officially in the war-torn country as “tourists” but were secretly filming a documentary on Russia’s private military companies (PMCs) there on behalf of former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was previously jailed on corruption charges and then emigrated from Russia after his early release a few years ago. This wannabe opposition figure is obsessed with discrediting President Putin, and he apparently thought that one of the most creative ways to do so would be to “expose” the role of Russian PMCs in the Central African Republic, though nothing about Moscow’s activities there are secret, let alone illegal.
The UNSC granted Russia an exemption in December 2017 to export weapons to the country’s armed forces and provide training to their military in order to help them reestablish control over this failed state, for which purpose Moscow committed five formal military advisors and 170 civilian trainers, the latter of which are presumably PMCs. All of this information is a matter of public record and there’s nothing conspiratorial about it, but because PMCs are sometimes called “mercenaries” and this reframing accordingly evokes very nefarious images, Khodorkovsky apparently thought that it would suffice as the subject of a documentary intended to cast a negative light on the Russian government’s peacemaking activities in Africa.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with commissioning an investigative project on anything at all, but it must be carried out responsibly, which in this case it wasn’t. The three men didn’t make the local Russian embassy aware of their presence in the country, nor did they apply for journalist credentials there. Instead, they sought to do everything in secret, which therefore put their lives in danger. It’s since emerged that they also dismissed the advice of local police officers who warned them against venturing beyond the capital at night, which they ended up doing anyway and got killed because of it after they were stopped at a rebel roadblock and shot during a robbery.
It would be unfair to render a verdict on the victims’ judgement when it was Khodorkovsky’s responsibility to ensure that they were properly trained and made aware of how to most safely conduct themselves in this very dangerous country. Their financier and project organizer should bear the blame for what happened after commissioning them to clandestinely carry out journalistic activities there that were totally unnecessary because they weren’t covering something that was secret. Russia’s civilian trainers in the Central African Republic are UN-approved, but Khodorkovsky’s conspiratorial suggestion that there might be something else going on regrettably led to irresponsible decisions that ultimately got them killed.
The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Aug 10, 2018:
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