Arkady Babchenko was dead for about a day.
The Kiev-based Russian journalist was shot in the back, as he stepped out for some bread yesterday, and he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior released a sketch of the man believed to be responsible, and a manhunt was underway.
RussiaFeed author Matfey Shaheen correctly predicted that blame would be laid at Russia’s feet, as usual. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman claimed that Russia killed Babchenko for being a vocal critic of the Kremlin. “I’m sure that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and his fidelity to principle… The murderers must be punished!” the minister wrote in a Facebook post, as CNN reported.
Other outlets, such as the BBC, also made sure to emphasize his anti-Russian views. Babchenko fled Russia in 2017, after receiving death threats for writing that he had “neither sympathy nor pity” for the 92 victims of the December 2016 Tu-154 crash. The plane had been transporting the Red Army choir on their way to perform a New Year’s concert for Russian troops serving in Syria.
Shaheen also made the case for why Russia didn’t do it.
And Shaheen was right. Russia didn’t do it. And the thing is, nobody did it. As we now know, the entire story was a farce, staged by Ukrainian authorities and law enforcement.
Babchenko calmly sauntered out in front of cameras at a Ukrainian Security Service press conference earlier today as the journalists gasped and cheered.
Security Service head Vasily Gritsak then explained that the faked death was an elaborate plot to catch those who really wanted Babchenko dead. The journalist had been working with the police for over a month from the time he was informed of a supposed Russian plot to assassinate him, The Guardian reports.
Apparently not even the journalist’s wife, who faced the horror of finding her husband “shot” outside their apartment, was in on the plot:
Special apologies to my wife, Olechka—there was no other option,
Police said they have made one arrest in connection with the operation, although it remains unclear how Babchenko’s faked death led to the arrest of a man who obviously didn’t kill him. Gritsak said they wanted those who were plotting against Babchenko to think they had succeeded.
Russia is of course displeased with this Ukrainian game:
The Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday it was happy Babchenko had turned out to be alive, but said Ukraine had used his story as propaganda. Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the story was imbued with “propagandistic effect.”
Other Russian officials denounced the staged murder. “It’s a hoax, as well as a provocation, with accusations against Russia of a feigned murder,” Alexey Pushkov, a prominent Russian lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.
Confirming Zakharova’s statement, Ukrainian President Poroshenko still tried to make Russia look like the bad guy in the situation:
It is unlikely that Moscow will calm down. I’ve given an order to provide Arkady and his family with protection,”
he wrote on Twitter, according to the BBC.
Journalists aren’t so thrilled either. Of course, they are happy their colleague is alive, but they are struggling to understand why Ukraine carried out such a deception. After Arkady’s appearance, the Committee to Protect Journalists demanded that the Ukrainian government explain why it needed to stage Babchenko’s murder.
“We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive. Ukrainian authorities must disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder,” the Committee wrote in a statement.
And still reflecting the knee-jerk reaction to always blame Russia, Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague, wrote online: “Next time there’s some killing, Russia will be able to play the ‘do you know this is real?’ card.”
Just as with the MH17 crash, just as with Boris Nemtsov, just as with the Skripals, and so many other incidents, Russia is being made out to be the bad guy, the bully, the murderous thug—even when there’s no body.
Russia is pretty used to such “provocations” by now. “But there was no other way,” Babchenko assures us.