Russian Reporters Receive Threats After Investigating Secret Military Group

Oct. 15, 2019

A group of Russian journalists who investigated the activities of a secretive group of Russian mercenaries in Africa and the Middle East have been subject to a campaign of physical threats and harassment, their editor-in-chief said.

“Proekt,” an independent Moscow-based online news outlet which specializes in investigations, began to publish a series of articles in March looking into the role of a shadowy group of mercenaries known as Wagner.

Around the same time editor-in-chief Roman Badanin said his journalists began to receive emailed threats of physical retribution for their work. Unknown people tried to break into his staff’s personal accounts on Facebook, the Telegram messenger service and Google mail, he said, and one of his journalists was followed in the street by an unknown man who filmed her with a video camera.

“This is all simply an attempt to make us nervous, to distract from our journalistic work, to make it clear that we’re under surveillance and that they’re watching us,” Badanin told Reuters in an interview. Badanin said he could not prove who was behind the harassment campaign, which he said peaked last month when Proekt ran an investigation into Wagner’s apparent activities in Libya.

Proekt did not complain to the police over the incidents, he said, saying he had instead decided to speak out publicly to draw attention to the threats. People with ties to the Wagner group have previously told Reuters that it has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine and Syria. Russian authorities deny Wagner contractors carry out their orders.

The Wagner group was thrust into the spotlight last year when three Russian journalists were killed in Central African Republic while investigating there. Russian private military contractors use a defence ministry base in southern Russia containing barracks that were built by a company linked to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, Reuters reported in April.

The United States imposed sanctions on Prigozhin after it accused him of trying meddle in its 2016 presidential election and the 2018 U.S. congressional elections. Prigozhin has denied any links to Wagner and has declined to comment on the U.S. allegations, calling them a “private matter” for the U.S. Treasury. When asked if it was behind Proekt’s troubles, Concord Management and Consulting, Prigozhin’s main business, said by email: “If journalists are being persecuted or threatened they should phone 02,” a reference to the police emergency number in Russia.

Russia is regularly criticized by media freedom watchdogs who say attacks on journalists often go unpunished. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says 28 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000.

6 comments

  1. “Russian authorities deny Wagner contractors carry out their orders. ”
    Many journalists fall into this Russian propaganda trap. Of course Russian authorities deny it, Putin has his oligarchs do the illegal mafia business so the government can deny everything.
    In this case, the owner of a catering business (Prigozhin) also runs an illegal mercenary group of thieves and murderers. What has catering to do with mercenaries except to shadow the illegality of his work for Putler.

    Liked by 4 people

    • They denied that they were carrying out Kremlin orders once and it was very costly for them.
      Russian mercenaries tried to seize an oil facility that was held by the U.S military and its allies.

      As it was unfolding, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he wanted to find out who the attackers were and make sure they weren’t part of the formal Russian army. The U.S. military contacted their Russian counterparts on a “deconfliction” hotline the two sides use to make sure they didn’t shoot at each other in Syria
      The Russia High Command in Syria assured us it was not their people,” Mattis told Congress last year.
      Once that was cleared up, Mattis said, “My direction was for the force to be annihilated.”

      And it was. The Americans say more than 200 Russian mercenaries were killed in withering airstrikes before they retreated from the one-sided fight near the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Absolutely correct. I remember reading after it happened, two scumbags that survived tried to describe the American onslaught. One described it as burning in hell and the other called it a meat grinder. I have read other estimates that put the number at 300.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I remember hearing some of the radio traffic,all in Russian. ” They are destroying us !!!! ” The Yankees are raining hell on us!!!
          No wonder……..US warplanes arrived in waves, including Reaper drones, F-22 stealth fighter jets, F-15E Strike Fighters, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters. For the next three hours, US officials said, scores of strikes pummelled enemy troops, tanks and other vehicles. Marine rocket artillery was fired from the ground.

          Liked by 3 people

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