The three Russians killed in the Central African Republic had followed very different career paths before uniting on a daring journalistic assignment to report on the shadowy Russian mercenary group Wagner. Journalist Orkhan Dzhemal was an experienced war reporter who worked for liberal and opposition media, while cameraman Kirill Radchenko had worked in Syria for pro-Kremlin media. Director Alexander Rastorguyev had won awards for no-holds-barred documentaries about life in Russia.
I love war
Journalist Dzhemal, who died at 51, suffered a serious leg injury from shelling in Libya in 2011 while reporting on the conflict for Izvestia newspaper. In one of his last interviews to Radio Liberty, he said: “I love war. You go and you touch history.” He recalled that after recovering from his injury in Libya, he went to eastern Ukraine, where he covered the conflict from both sides of the frontline.
At the time of his death, he was making a film with Pyotr Verzilov of the Pussy Riot punk group. He began his career working for television in his hometown of Rostov-on-Don, where he continued to live and work and where his parents live.
“If something blows up now somewhere, I will definitely go,” he said, saying that for him “journalism is a profession that allows you to be free”. He worked for Novaya Gazeta as a special correspondent and for many other newspapers and magazines. In 2008 he published a book about the brief war between Georgia and Russia.
In a tribute video broadcast by independent television channel Dozhd on Wednesday, journalist Mikhail Fishman said Dzhemal had a “particular lack of fear”. Dzhemal’s late father Geidar was a philosopher and Muslim preacher. His former wife and the mother of his son Irina Gordiyenko is a Novaya Gazeta journalist.
Director Rastorguyev, who died at 47, won awards for his documentaries, which also attracted plenty of criticism for shocking scenes. His film “Tender’s Heat. Wild, Wild Beach,” co-directed with Vitaly Mansky and Susanna Baranzhiyeva, followed an eccentric group of characters on Black Sea beaches.
In one of his last interviews to Radio Liberty, he said: “I love war. You go and you touch history.” He recalled that after recovering from his injury in Libya
Variety called it “frequently grotesque but admirably unflinching” and it won a special jury award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival in 2006. Mansky told Dozhd’s tribute video that Rastorguyev was “maybe the most outstanding chronicler of the crazy, in some ways pointless and cruel life in Russia.” “I urge everyone now to drop everything and watch his films.”
Rastorguyev in a 2013 interview with The Village website said that “any art form tries to shed light on the real state of things, which is hidden from most people.” He took part in a high-profile project called Srok, a series of short Internet films about the Russian protest movement including opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
He was detained at a 2011 protest against Putin’s return to the Kremlin. At the time of his death, he was making a film with Pyotr Verzilov of the Pussy Riot punk group. He began his career working for television in his hometown of Rostov-on-Don, where he continued to live and work and where his parents live.
Drawn to Danger
Cameraman Radchenko, who died at 33, was from Moscow. He spent months covering the frontline of the war in Syria for ANNA News, a media outlet registered in Abkhazia, a Russia-backed breakaway region of Georgia. His colleague at ANNA News, Sergei Shilov, wrote that “he was drawn to everything new and unknown and to danger. Evidently, that was his main motive to film in Africa.”
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His own political views were pro-opposition and he acted as an election observer in Chechnya for Navalny this year. That was also where he met Rastorguyev, who later asked him to come to the Central African Republic, Meduza reported. In Syria, he encountered Russian mercenaries and wanted to “tell why they are fighting, but our authorities actively do not admit to this,” journalist Alexandra Bayeva told Meduza news site.
© Agence France-Presse