‘They cannot be replaced’: Russians pay respects to journalists killed in Africa

‘They cannot be replaced’: Russians pay respects to journalists killed in Africa
Hundreds of people have attended memorial services for three Russian journalists, who were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR). Mourners praised the men's courage and professionalism while grieving their deaths.

Journalist Orhan Dzhemal, director Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and cameraman Kirill Radchenko were killed in the CAR on July 30, while shooting a film about mercenaries in the African state. According to police, they may have been victims of a robbery. Their bodies were transported to Russia on August 5.

'Lion of justice'

Hundreds of people gathered for the memorial service of Orhan Dzhemal, 51, at the Moscow Cathedral Mosque. The religious ceremony was held by the Grand Mufti of Russia and the head of Russia's Mufti Council, Rawil Gaynetdin. "Orhan has always lived for the people, for the good of the people and for the sake of justice," he said.

"Orhan has always come to the aid of those in danger. [He] was one of the noblest people I know… We are paying the last respects to a warrior, a man, a poet and a journalist today," Maksim Shevchenko, a well-known Russian journalist and close friend of the deceased, told the large crowd of Dzhemal's relatives, friends and colleagues who gathered to mourn the journalist's death.

"Orhan was a lion, a lion of justice. He threw truth in the faces of butchers, abusers and oppressors. He was never afraid to look them in the eyes. Only those, who feel the flame of truth and verity in their souls, are capable of doing it," Shevchenko added.

Dzhemal was a well-known war correspondent, who worked in numerous conflict zones ranging from Russia's North Caucasus to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. He suffered a serious injury while reporting from Libya during the battle for Tripoli, almost losing a leg, but still continued his work. People from various Russian regions, including Tatarstan and several republics of North Caucasus, as well as from foreign states such as Azerbaijan, traveled to Moscow to pay tribute to the slain journalist.

'Hero & genius'

Following a memorial ceremony in the Orthodox church of Kosmas and Damian in central Moscow, people honored director Aleksandr Rastorguyev with applause for his work as a documentary maker. "We worked with [Aleksandr] for 21 years. He was my best friend. A hero and a genius. Such people will not and cannot be replaced. The grief is immeasurable," scriptwriter Susanna Baranzhieva, who worked with Rastorguyev on a number of his documentaries, told RIA following the ceremony.

Rastorguyev's memorial service was attended by many Russian directors and media figures. "He was the best documentary maker," Leonid Parfyonov, a veteran Russian journalist, news presenter, TV producer and author of many popular documentary TV shows, told the BBC. "Many of his documentaries are all about love – about love for the people," another veteran Russian journalist, Eduard Sagalaev, said.

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"He struck out a line of his own… he was an uncompromising man. He was a genius director and a son of his country… The meaning [of his work] was more important for him than his career," Lubov Arkus, a film director, told RIA.

Rastorguyev had been awarded multiple prizes for his documentaries. Some of them were presented at film festivals in France, Poland and the Netherlands.

'A man with strong sense of justice'

Dozens of people came to pay tribute to cameraman Kirill Radchenko. Mourners carried white and red roses, as well as carnations. "A man's life is defined through his deeds, through his attitude to work, to motherland and family," said a priest at the memorial ceremony, noting that so many had come to pay their respects to the killed cameraman.

"He was an outstanding man with a strong sense of justice," Rodion Chepel, an investigative journalist, told the BBC. He also said that Radchenko had always wanted his works to be seen by people in their "pure" form – unvarnished and uncut. "He was an incredibly decent man… always focused on his work," said Alisher Igamov, a cameraman with the Abkhaz Anna News agency, who worked with Radchenko for two years in Syria.

The three-man crew was attacked while they were riding in a car some 23km from the central town of Sibut, located in one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries, which has been ravaged by a bloody sectarian conflict since 2013.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official warning in which it cautioned Russian citizens against visiting the CAR due to high security risks. The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a probe into the murder of the journalists.

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