The CAR Murders: Points to ‘Putin’s Chef’

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The CAR Murders: Points to ‘Putin’s Chef’

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Sep 02, 2019 6:47 pm

HOMICIDAL
The CAR Murders: A Critical Cold Case in the New Cold War Points to ‘Putin’s Chef’
Evidence mounts that shows three Russian journalists investigating the mysterious Wagner mercenaries in Africa were set up by some of the same people who attacked U.S. elections.
Anna Nemtsova
Christopher Dickey
World News Editor
Updated 09.02.19 5:44AM ET / Published 09.02.19 5:23AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia–It’s been more than a year now since someone murdered three Russian journalists on a dark road in a remote corner of the Central African Republic.

Within days of the killings on the night of July 30-31, 2018, as The Daily Beast reported at the time, there were suspicions the journalists had been set up. Since then, the official investigations have gone nowhere or been diverted down blind alleys, and if the Kremlin and its front men have their way—which they normally do in the Central African Republic—the case will go completely cold.

But the families of the victims, their colleagues, and the exiled Russian tycoon who sent the journalists on their fatal mission in the first place say they are determined to see justice done. Their investigations have peeled back layer after layer of an ostensibly private “company” noteworthy for conspiracy and corruption, which Russian President Vladimir Putin evidently employs to extend his influence around the world.

BAD ACTORS
Russian Journalists Murdered in Africa May Have Been Set Up


Americans concerned about the ruthlessness of Moscow’s operations to subvert or dominate other countries should take note as evidence mounts that some of the central figures in the cyberattacks on the U.S. presidential election in 2016 may also be implicated in the Africa homicides.

The victims were Orkhan Dzhemal, 51, a famous Russian war correspondent; Alexander Rastorguyev, 47, a film director; and Kirill Radchenko, 33, a cameraman. They had traveled to Africa to make a documentary about the “Wagner Group,” a highly secretive private military contractor allegedly created by the infamous Russian billionaire and Putin crony, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He is the same figure named in a detailed indictment by the Mueller probe in February 2018 and in the subsequent Mueller Report released this year as the money man behind the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory here in St. Petersburg that set out to defeat Hillary Clinton, then help elect Donald Trump in 2016. (Prigozhin told a Russian state news agency that he was not upset about his indictment. “Americans see what they want to see,” he said.) But the troll factory is just one of many operations that are part of what his underlings refer to as “The Company.”


Prigozhin, often given the anodyne sobriquet “Putin’s chef,” initially built his fortune on huge Russian government catering contracts, but the tentacles of his organization are spread far and wide, and in some surprising places. He even has a firm that makes candy, and there are many here who would tell you the sweets have a sinister background. “These are bloody chocolates, produced by the same people who attack and kill journalists,” claims Yegor Alekseyev, a blogger from St. Petersburg. “Two men broke my nose and smashed my teeth in 2016 after I published stories about Prigozhin’s ‘troll factory.’ These are dangerous people backed up by the [Russian government’s] special services.”

In 2014, when Putin made his move to take the Crimean peninsula away from Ukraine and launch covertly a separatist revolution in the east of that country that has now cost more than 13,000 lives, combatants linked to a mysterious organization of mercenaries started showing up. Many of its recruits appeared to have come from Russian military intelligence, the GRU, especially the special forces component known as Spetsnaz. They answered to a former officer named Dmitry Utkin, nicknamed “Wagner.”

These operatives also surfaced in Syria, in Sudan, and in the Central African Republic. Their objective was not only to extend Russian influence, but to take control of industries and especially natural resources, further enriching their backer, who was soon reported to be Prigozhin.

He has issued pro forma denials, but evidence of Prigozhin’s ties to the group has continued to mount, especially in the private investigations of those trying to get to the bottom of the Central African murders.

DUELING INVESTIGATIONS
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once reputedly the richest man in Russia–an oligarch so wealthy and powerful that Putin felt threatened, and finally managed to put him away in prison for almost a decade. When Khodorkovsky was released in 2013, he went to Britain and has since worked as one of Putin’s most active opponents in exile.

It was Khodorkovsky who funded the fatal trip to the Central African Republic by Dzhemal, Rastorguyev, and Radchenko to report on the Wagner Group’s activities, and it is Khodorkovsky who has underwritten the most exhaustive investigation of their murder. “Somebody has to put evidence together for the day Putin’s crooks end up in court,” Khodorkovsky told The Daily Beast last year. He hired journalists, military experts, private detectives and others to delve into the killings, and issued a “final report” under the auspices of his Dossier Center on the anniversary of the murders.

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The picture that emerges over the course of almost 80 pages is highly detailed and deeply disturbing.

For starters, the Dossier investigators addressed the official version put forth by Russian authorities and the CAR security forces, many of them trained and funded by the Kremlin directly and also by Wagner personnel. Their claim is that the Russian documentary makers were ambushed on a back road at night by bandits wearing turbans and speaking Arabic who shot all three of them dead. The killers let the local driver, named as Bienvenue Douvokama, escape in his car and the sketchy account of the attack came from Douvokama.

When the official version failed to satisfy the victims’ families, friends, or colleagues in the independent press, a Prigozhin-backed news agency, RIA FAN, conducted its own investigation of the murder and named Dominique Christophe Raineteau as the mastermind, claiming that he was a French mercenary or agent in league with terrorists.

“These are dangerous people, backed up by the [Russian government’s] special services.”
— Yegor Alekseyev, blogger beaten for his coverage of Prigozhin troll factory
“We have our vision of what happened in CAR,” RIA FAN editor Yevgeny Zubarev wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “It was a planned provocation but you are never going to publish our conclusions… Your publication is neither going to mention in a negative light Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the main suspect of this crime; nor the Western (French) special services, the possible accomplices,” wrote Zubarev.

Actually, the RIA FAN conclusions are quite interesting, because they do not agree at all with the official government versions blaming unknown Arabic-speaking thieves. The general thrust of the RIA FAN report is that the Russian journalists were killed in order to embarrass Russia (if not indeed to blame Prigozhin and Putin). The agent who organized the murders, according to RIA FAN, was Raineteau, a French mercenary who is protected by the French secret services, and Khodorkovsky himself, who supposedly paid Raineteau to set up the team Khodorkovsky had sent.

RIA FAN notes the extensive French-Russian rivalry for resources and dominance in Africa as the motive for the French plot, and says Khodorkovsky’s motive is to “discredit any activity of Russia abroad, particularly in Africa and the revenge directed at the Russian Federation.”

All of this makes for a fascinating narrative of conspiracy, and is typical of disinformation that tries to ascribe presumed motives—“who benefits from the crime”—as proof when it is really self-serving conjecture.

There is some hearsay in the RIA FAN report, but the documentary evidence linking Raineteau to the killing is virtually nonexistent, while the account compiled by Khodorkovsky’s investigators appears to be based largely on minute examination of phone records and emails (albeit without any explanation of how they were obtained).

The narrative developed by the investigators for Khodorkovsky’s Dossier Centre goes roughly like this:

The three journalists made a critical mistake when they were looking for a “fixer” to set up appointments, transportation, lodging, translation and the like while they were in the CAR. Even though they were investigating one Prigozhin operation, Wagner, they asked a journalist working for another Prigozhin company, RIA FAN, for help. This may not be quite as unusual as it sounds, because journalists working for conflicting media often believe they have more common bonds as professionals in the field than as servants for their bosses in the home offices. That may have been the case where the request for advice from FAN journalist Kirill Romanovsky was concerned.

“The Dossier Centre investigation concludes ‘with a high degree of probability that the fixer “Martin”… never existed.’”
He in turn suggested they contact by text message a Dutch man with experience in the CAR as a United Nations employee or contractor who went by the name of “Martin.”

The RIA FAN report would later suggest Martin was none other than the mysterious French operative Raineteau. But the Dossier Centre investigation concludes “with a high degree of probability that the fixer ‘Martin’… never existed.” Rather, “he was invented by the coordinators of a thoroughly planned operation.”

“Martin” did not show up at the airport as expected, when the crew arrived, and they never once laid eyes on him or, for that matter, spoke to him on the phone. Everything was handled by text messages, including Martin’s claim that he was 376 kilometers from the CAR capital Bangui in the town of Bambari, where they were headed initially the day they were killed. According to the Dossier Centre report, cell phone records show “Martin,” or at least that phone, never left the capital.

The Dossier Centre investigation notes that the local driver the crew hired, Bienvenue Douvokama, is believed to be an agent or informer for the local gendarmerie, and was in “constant operational contact with gendarme Emmanuel Kotofio” who “tracked the journalists’ movements and was in their immediate vicinity.” (Kotofio is quoted by RIA FAN saying he and Douvokama are old friends and just like to shoot the breeze.)

Kotofio, in turn, “maintained contact with a man identified by the Dossier Centre as an ‘instructor in surveillance, counter-surveillance, recruitment and intelligence work’” from another Prigozhin company, M-Finans, run by one Aleksandr Sotov, who then reported to Valery Zakharov, a Russian adviser to the president of the CAR and head of a team of instructors in Prigozhin’s “Company.”

On the fatal night of July 30, according to the Dossier Centre, Kotofio the gendarme passed through a military checkpoint at the town of Sibut, on the same road the journalists would take only minutes later. With Kotofio were three Caucasians, “presumably Russians,” according to the Dossier Centre report. Kotofio drove back to the checkpoint later at 8 p.m. The journalists’ driver reported their murder about 45 minutes later at a village near the scene.

The following day, according to the Dossier Centre, a “disinformation campaign” began to confuse and impede any outside investigation.

According to emails obtained by the Dossier Centre, which cannot be independently verified, Prigozhin is personally involved in running the Company’s projects in the Central African Republic.

THE PAIN OF THE FAMILIES
The Kremlin remains deaf to the victims’ families’ demands to question Prigozhin and his men on the ground, including commanders of the Russian militia working for CAR’s leadership.

Alexander Radchenko’s, the father of the cameraman, says it is easy for him to connect the dots identifying the main suspects. Since July 30, 2018, the day his son’s body was found in CAR, Radchenko has been analyzing reports by private investigators and journalists, and read and watched interviews with Moscow’s key man in CAR, Valery Zakharov, a former Russian military intelligence officer, who is now the country's main security adviser. “The investigators–along with Russian diplomats, FSB, GRU–back up the Russian military instructors working in CAR instead of questioning the main guy, Zakharov,and his bosses,” Radchenko told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

The heartbroken father has written more than 30 petitions to Russian state detectives investigating the criminal case. Some of his requests ostensibly were taken into consideration, but most of them were ignored. Radchenko told The Daily Beast that in his opinion the murder was “undoubtedly a set up.”

Over the last six months, the father says, he has seen enough evidence collected by independent reporters to conclude that “Yevgeny Prigozhin, Valery Zakharov and his aide Alexander Sotov are the principal suspects to be questioned about the murder of my son.” But Radchenko sounds hopeless: “Every time I ask the state detective on this case, Igor Zolotov, to call them for questioning, he seems too shy and tells me: ‘We should not bother such important men, they must be busy.’”

THE PROCONSUL
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Florian Elabdi

Khodorkovsky’s team has tried to fill that investigative gap. “We have done our part of the job, presented mobile phone billing to demonstrate that Zakharov, his aid Alexander Sotov, the gendarme they trained and the crew called each other dozens of times during the two days before the murder,” Maxim Dbar, Khodorkovsly’s spokesman, told The Daily Beast. “We have no authority to question the key suspects."

Irina Gordiyenko, a reporter for independent Novaya Gazeta, especially wants to know who killed Orkhan Dzhemal, the father of her son. “I want to ask both Zakharov and Sotov about the billing data, what sort of actions they coordinated from the moment of the journalists’ arrival in CAR,” Gordiyenko said in a recent interview with The Daily Beast. “I have questions for Zakharov about CAR gendarmes being trained in Russia. I want to ask the Russian MID [ministry of foreign affairs] why the journalists’ belongings have not been moved to Russia, why our diplomats consult with Prigozhin’s Wagner about the official version of the murder to give to the public.”

Somebody shot Rostorguyev from a 7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle. Two bullets hit the journalist’s heart. “Only a professional could fire so accurately in the dark,” Gordiyenko added her doubts.

“Prigozhin has created private military forces to help Russia, he is fighting the war against Russia’s enemies, ... so of course Moscow will not go against him.”
— Sergei Markov, pro-Kremlin political analyst
The United States imposed sanctions against billionaire Prigozhin and his Concord holding company in 2016 for constructing a military base for Russian forces near Ukraine. But neither the sanctions, nor the links to the CAR murder that shook the entire country, has slowed the growth of Prigozhin’s business empire.

Concord keeps working on immense state contracts, his Zinger Development group is planning to build an artificial island in the Gulf of Finland, and foreign tourists keep buying his chocolates at Eliseyev Emporium, a historic architectural landmark on Nevsky Prospect.

Jessica from Vermont was purchasing Marzipans shaped as carrots, half a pound of Lukum and chocolates with lime taste. “I am not sure I know who Prigozhin is, I am sorry,” the tourist told The Daily Beast.

Prigozhin has access to the highest offices in the Kremlin and cooperates closely with the defense ministries of both Russia and the CAR. The power is on his side.

“The murder of the three journalists is not going to be investigated, at least there will never be public knowledge of who ordered the killing,” a political analyst close to the Kremlin, Sergei Markov, told The Daily Beast. “Prigozhin has created private military forces to help Russia, he is fighting the war against Russia’s enemies that are constantly undermining our power, so of course Moscow will not go against him to support the dossier created by Putin’s enemy, Khodorkovsky.”

In the eyes of much of the world, however, Putin’s name will be linked forever to the murder of the three journalists just as it is linked to the killing of journalists Anna Politkovskaya or Natalia Estemirova.

Dzhamal, Rastorguyev, and Radchenko were—and remain—important symbols for Russians who still believe the search for solid facts and the truth is the only way to combat corruption and the disinformation used to disguise it, even if the quest costs you your life.

Anna Nemtsova reported from St. Petersburg, Christopher Dickey from Paris.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/yevgeny-p ... ref=scroll


Wagner PMC part of Russian military intel, IDs of "mercenaries" confirm – Ukraine security chief


Chief of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, Vasyl Hrytsak, says travel documents issued to mercenaries of Russia's Wagner Private Military Company confirm that the PMC is a secret detachment of the country's military intelligence.


“Russia keeps lying cynically, trying to justify its crimes committed across the globe. The Kremlin keeps yelling that the armed units of its military intelligence don't protect dictatorial regimes in Sudan, Syria and have not been involved in the murder of journalists in the CAR who tried to shed light on their clandestine activities,” the SBU reported on their website.

The Security Service of Ukraine reminded that on January 25, materials testifying that Russian mercenaries and weapons were delivered to Sudan and other countries of the region “directly by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on the request of M Invest LLC, a company owned by 'Putin's chef' Yevgeny Prigozhin.”

Moreover, the SBU chief adds, it was through “M Invest” that tickets were purchased for the “passengers” of flights performed by the Russian defense ministry's 223rd flight squad, who turned out to be outsourced operatives of Russia's military intelligence from Wagner PMC.

“From August to December 2018, Tu-154M planes (RA-85041, RA-85155 registration numbers) brought to Sudan, the CAR, and other African countries on a rotational basis 1,012 'we-are-not-there' troops, whose tickets, personal, and passport data are today at the SBU disposal,” reads the statement.

Read alsoContractors of Russia's PMC Wagner beef up security for Venezuela's Maduro – media

The SBU published part of the available information, in particular, the list of 149 people who “directly partook in suppressing democratic protests in Sudan in early 2019.”

“An analysis of passport data of over a thousand PMC Wagner operatives testifies that the overwhelming majority of their travel documents were processed by a same Moscow-based unit of the Federal Migration Service, which also issued cover documents for 'Petrov' and 'Boshirov', Russian military intelligence officers who had carried out a chemical attack in British Salisbury.

At the same time, passport series and registration numbers of several hundreds of passports of "Wagner’s men" show the IDs were issued in bulk, one after another.

Hrytsak says this once again confirms that Wagner PMC is “a secret detachment of outsourced assassins hired by the Russian military intelligence.”

According to the report, the SBU also found that Russian military intelligence was also sent to citizens from other countries: Belarus, Moldova, and the self-proclaimed republics supported by Russia, as part of the African rotations of the Wagner private security complex.

“In addition, the available information indicates the target recruitment to the Sudanese“ business trip ”of PMC Wagner of traitors to Ukraine from among the residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea, who received Russian citizenship as a reward for helping the Russian aggressor,” added the Security Service.

Read alsoNew evidence ties murder of three Russian journalists in CAR to "Putin's chef" – media

It is also noted that more than 90% of mercenaries deployed in Africa had taken part in Russia's military aggression against Ukraine in 2014-2015, in particular, in the offensive on the Lugansk Airport and the city of Debaltseve.

The SBU also found that since the end of 2018, as part of the efforts to create in Sudan a “military-technical support point for the Russian Navy,” former Ukrainian Navy officers were deployed there, who in the spring of 2014 had betrayed Ukraine and sided with the Russian occupants, signing contracts with the Russian navy.
https://www.unian.info/world/10424754-w ... chief.html


Maxim Borodin who was one of the first to break the Wagner Syria story involving Russian mercenaries has died. He fell out the window of his apartment.
https://t.co/gOT4ftevVM


Syria reportedly signed a contract with Evgeny Prigozhin, weeks before his mercenaries attacked a U.S.-held oilfield
The Bell06:08, 27 february 2018
According to the newsletter The Bell, the Syrian government signed a deal with several Russian companies to help “liberate, protect, and develop” Syrian oil fields currently occupied by hostiles.

The agreement allegedly involves “Evro Polis,” which is rumored to belong to Evgeny Prigozhin, the man behind Russia’s “troll factory” and the “Wagner” private military company.

Over the past nine months, Western and Russian journalists reported that these parties reached a memorandum in late 2016. The Bell says there’s now a legally binding contract in place. The agreement was reportedly finalized in January 2018, weeks before dozens of mercenaries from the Wagner PMC were allegedly killed when advancing on an oilfield held by U.S. and Kurdish forces in Deir ez-Zor.

What’s the big deal?
The American counterattack on February 7 was a U.S. airstrike against armed Russian citizens. Moscow has been eager to play down the story, initially denying any knowledge about the deaths of Russian citizens. The Foreign Ministry later acknowledged that five Russians may have been killed in the battle and “a few dozen” were injured.

On February 23, The Washington Post reported that a U.S. intelligence agency intercepted Russian communications showing that Prigozhin had been in contact with top Syrian and Kremlin officials ahead of the Wagner group’s assault on the oilfield in Deir ez-Zor. If Prigozhin discussed the attack with Anton Vaino, Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff, it would seem to indicate that Moscow was willing to risk a direct confrontation with the United States military in Syria.
https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/02/27/sy ... d-oilfield


These Russians sought to spread distrust among voters and in the election results, and they were bankrolled, according to the Mueller indictment, by a businessman friend of Russian leader Vladimir Putin named Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin.

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=40330&p=654592&hilit=Prigozhin#p654592


Paula Chertok

Lukoil's Russian oligarch *Alekperov* had the means & motive to pass Cambridge Analytica data to another Russian oligarch, Prigozhin, who funded the Kremlin propaganda troll operation.
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