Forget the Russia investigation and reports that the Russian government allegedly poisoned a double-agent with nerve gas. Those spy thriller plots are nothing compared to the latest Russia-related craziness. This week, a Russian journalist who was critical of the Kremlin was violently assassinated in front of his own home. Then less than 24 hour later, he popped up at a press conference ALIVE and announced he had faked his own death. You can’t make this stuff up.
Audible gasps and applause from reporters as Arkady Babchenko enters the press conference about his 'murder' pic.twitter.com/Bp5hlyqrYl
— David Mack (@davidmackau) May 30, 2018
Arkady Babchenko is a vocal critic of the Russian government and left the country for Ukraine in 2017 because he no longer felt safe – makes you appreciate Canada’s freedom of the press. On Tuesday morning, Ukrainian State news agency Ukinform reported that Babchnko was shot three times in the back in front of his home and later died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. They cited his friend and supervisor Ayder Muzhdabaev who apparently had knowledge of the situation.
The report sparked mass outrage in Ukraine, Russia and the rest of the world. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman implied in a Facebook post that the assassination was the work of the Russian government.
“I’m sure the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and his fidelity to principle,” he wrote, “Best friend of Ukraine who told the truth about Russian aggression to the world. The murderers must be punished!”
The Kremlin didn’t take too kindly to that – duh! – and issued a statement dismissing the accusations and instead suggesting that conditions in Ukraine are unsafe for journalists. They also encouraged Ukrainian authorities to “take effective measures to rectify the situation.”
Around the world, people who value freedom of speech spoke out about the atrocity. It always resonates in the world’s democracies when a journalist is murdered or detained in pursuit of truth and holding leaders accountable. Vigils were scheduled for the next day in honour of the fallen journalist.
Except they turned out to be unnecessary. In a shocking turn of events, Babchenko revealed himself at a press conference in Kiev Wednesday and declared that he is in fact ALIVE. We thought those kind of plot twists only happened in soap operas and telenovelas.
Look at reaction of Babchenko’s colleagues in Kyiv when they saw him alive and well.
‘Ukraine screwed up’ much?
Give me and my people a break.pic.twitter.com/7Y0dVLZz1Q
— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) May 30, 2018
Babchenko started by apologizing to his wife for the “hell” he put her through and went on to explain why in the world he would fake his own death.
Turns out not even Babchenko's own wife – to say nothing of his six adopted children – knew about it. "Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here," Babchenko says. "I'm sorry for making you live through this. I've buried my own friends and colleagues many times myself."
— max seddon (@maxseddon) May 30, 2018
Last month, Ukrainian authorities were alerted to a murder plot surrounding the journalist and concocted an elaborate plan to thwart it – fake his death. The authorities briefed Babchenko on the plot and informed him that a $40,000 payment had already been made by the Russian secret service to an acquaintance who was going to act as a hitman. Wild.
Russia did not take kindly either to the stunt or the accusation that they had put an assassination attempt in motion. Several members of government called the operation “a stupid provocation against Russia” and a plot to “defame Russia.” They added that Ukraine is now “disgraced in the eyes of the world,” for their claims.
While a lot of questions no one had going in – like, “Is Babchenko actually dead?” — were answered at the press conference, new ones that presented themselves after the grand reveal were not. Most importantly: was it completely necessary to fake a man’s death? Why?
Bet you didn't see this late-season finale twist in year 4 of the Russia-Ukraine war. Apparently the whole thing was staged so that they could catch the people who ordered the hit. And it is normal because "Sherlock Holmes" did ithttps://t.co/2Z8pWX2A9n
— max seddon (@maxseddon) May 30, 2018
While this is a wildly entertaining story, the political repercussions could be huge. The history between Ukraine and Russia is lengthy and their current conflict has been ongoing for four years. This stunt certainly isn’t going to help relations between the countries or stabilize the environment for journalists and critics of the government. As some journalists have noted, in the Russian mission to “undermine the idea of truth and reality” this event may have done more harm than good.
The Kremlin has been fighting for a long time to undermine the idea of truth and reality. Ukraine just helped them along.
— Miriam Elder (@MiriamElder) May 30, 2018