“Americans say they fight for democracy… Russians fight for justice.” That’s the theme of The Tourist, a propaganda film funded, filmed, and starring members of the Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group. 

The Tourist tells the story of a group of young Russian military advisors (Wagner mercenaries) sent to the Central African Republic (CAR) on the eve of presidential elections. Following a violent rebellion, they defend locals against groups of murderous rebels.

The Film Does Not Mention any of Wagner’s Human Rights Violations

Conspicuously absent in the film was mention of a plethora of war crime charges and human rights abuses that have been leveled at Wagner mercenaries since they’ve arrived in CAR.

According to a March report by a group of independent UN experts, Russian Wagner mercenaries have committed human rights abuses in CAR while fighting alongside government forces. 

The alleged violations include mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture during interrogation, and the forced displacement of the civilian population, about 240,000 of whom have fled their homes because of fighting in recent weeks. Radio France Internationale (RFI) published a major investigation based on the UN documents about the activities of Wagner mercenaries in the CAR. The journalists reported that “Russian military instructors” were carrying out extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, and lootings.

However, throughout the film, Russian mercenaries are portrayed as kind and generous. Simultaneously, the film frequently takes digs at French and other Western advisors, portraying them as spreading instability and chaos in the region.

“Americans say they fight for democracy… Russians fight for justice,” says one of the film’s protagonists as Russian inspectors prepare to protect a local village. The film’s trailer can be watched here.

The film’s director, Andrey Shcherbinin — who uses the pseudonym Andrey Batov — tried to paint a picture of the benevolence of the Wagner mercenaries. Although Shcherbinin only spent a few days in the CAR, he sounded the Russian point of view.