JEWKRAINE’S (((WALKING DEAD)))


Babchenko’s Death and Russia’s Dark Power

Russia has adopted a policy of blessing freelance murders carried out in its name.

BY MARK GALEOTTI @MarkGaleotti
The Moscow Times, May 31, 2018

Another dead critic of the Kremlin. Another funeral.

Does the Putin regime murder its enemies as a matter of policy, or does it simply create an atmosphere permissive of such violence? What may seem an advantage viewed through the distorting windows of the Kremlin is actually another sad step in the country’s slide into pariah status.

Arkady Babchenko’s murder, shot in the back in his stairwell on Tuesday in a manner chillingly reminiscent of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, is only the most recent in a series of silencing of anti-Putin voices in Kiev.

It takes place against the backdrop not just of other political murders but also a wider campaign of terrorism carried out, almost certainly, by Russians and their assets against Ukrainian security officers.

It is thus unsurprising that the Ukrainian government instantly blamed Moscow. Prime Minister [KIKE] Volodymyr Groysman asserted that “the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive [Babchenko] his honesty and principled stance,” describing him as someone who “told the world the truth about Russian aggression.”

Of course, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded in kind, implying that the Ukrainians themselves were implicated. “Bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine for the Kiev regime,” it said.

In light of the annexation of Crimea, the undeclared war in the Donbass, and the ongoing campaign of subversion, terrorism and disinformation being carried out by Russia, it is the perfect scapegoat.

It is hard to see Babchenko’s murder as not directly or indirectly instigated by the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin — and thus, by extension, his regime — considers “traitors” as far more dangerous and reprehensible than mere critics. Babchenko, a Russian who had chronicled the horrors of the brutal Chechen War, and who had turned towards Kiev and put his talents and courage behind similarly exploring the outrages in the Donbass, had clearly crossed that intangible, but fatal line.

Whether this was directly ordered from the Kremlin, or whether it was carried out by some agency or individual convinced they were doing what Putin wanted, hardly matters.

The response from Moscow, meeting fire with counter-battery fire, is tantamount to a retrospective sanction. Russia has adopted a policy not just of extrajudicial execution abroad, but also of blessing freelance murders carried out in its name.

From the brazen campaign over the Skripals— with officials claiming they were poisoned by the British to distract from Brexit or kidnapped — to the bitter campaigns against the investigations into the downing of MH17 and chemical attacks in Syria, Moscow is making an art out of flat denials combined with a knowing smirk.

Of course we’ve done this, is the subtext, but you can’t prove a thing.

It is the implausible deniability of the gangster, who depends on the presumption of innocence, yet revels in a reputation for unpredictable violence.

Moscow’s strategy appears to be one of cultivating this “dark power,” as a means of securing through intimidation what it cannot achieve by negotiation.

For a while, this seemed to be bearing some fruits. The West was hesitant, unwilling to draw or at least maintain red lines, whether in Syria, Ukraine or at home. Russia could claim to a kind of great power status by default, able to punch well above its weight and protect its allies and interests through the deterrent force of “dark power.”

Yet while the Kremlin so far may think it is getting mileage from “the old ultra-violence,” this has been an increasingly dysfunctional strategy. In many ways, the writing on the wall was daubed in blood one night in February 2015, when opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on a bridge by the Kremlin.

This was almost certainly carried out at the behest of Chechen warlord-president Ramzan Kadyrov without Putin’s knowledge or direct encouragement. Ultimately, though, Kadyrov was allowed to, quite literally, get away with murder.

Babchenko’s murder is not just a human tragedy and a terrible loss to his profession. Whoever killed him, for whatever reason, it is already being regarded as another “Kremlin hit,” another milestone on Russia’s slide into pariah status.

Increasingly, Putin is to the world what Kadyrov is to Moscow, which is a tragedy for Russia and for Russians.

Prof. Mark Galeotti is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague


Ukraine blames Russia for murder of anti-Kremlin journalist

Prominent Russian war correspondent and former soldier was shot dead on Tuesday evening in an apparent contract-style killing

[An activists hangs portraits of journalist Arkadi Babchenko to the fence of Russian embassy in Kiev, on Wednesday, one day after he was shot in his apartment building in the Ukrainian capital.]

AFP, May 30, 2018

Kiev: Ukraine said Wednesday Russia’s “totalitarian machine” was behind the murder of anti-Kremlin reporter Arkady Babchenko, prompting furious denials from Moscow.

The prominent Russian war correspondent and former soldier was shot dead on Tuesday evening in an apparent contract-style killing in the stairwell of his building in Kiev. He had moved to the Ukrainian capital last year following a campaign of harassment in Moscow.

The 41-year-old was the latest in a number of Kremlin critics to have been killed in Kiev in the past two years.

Ukrainian police have opened a murder probe, saying they suspect the crime was linked to his work.

“I am convinced that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said Tuesday.

“A true friend of Ukraine who was telling the world the truth about Russian aggression. His murderers should be punished.”

An aide to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, also pointed the finger at Moscow, writing on Facebook: “The Putin regime targets those it cannot break or intimidate.”

Many politicians and observers including Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin suggested Russia wanted to sow chaos in the country — already wracked by a four-year conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east — ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
“The leading and obvious line of inquiry is that of his professional activities,” said Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko.

Three gunshots in his back

Moscow denied being behind the killing.

“The Ukrainian prime minister is already talking about how it was done by Russian secret services,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. “This fashion of conducting international affairs is very sad.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We strongly condemn this killing and hope for a real, and not a sham investigation into determining who ordered it.”

Investigators in Moscow opened their own probe, saying they were “not going to turn a blind eye to the cruel crimes against Russian citizens”.

Ukrainian police spokesman Yaroslav Trakalo said Babchenko was found bleeding by his wife after she heard shooting, and that he died in an ambulance en route to hospital.

The journalist suffered three gunshots to his back.

Several countries condemned the Babchenko killing, with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying he was “appalled”.

“We must defend freedom of speech and it is vital that those responsible are now held to account,” he said on Twitter.

The Council of Europe also condemned the “brutal act”, with Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland saying: “It must be fully investigated and the perpetrators quickly brought to justice.”

In recent years Babchenko’s increasingly bombastic posts constantly pushed the boundaries of good taste and some of his colleagues and followers stopped reading him on Facebook.

But his killing triggered an outpouring of grief among liberal Russians.

A group of around 30 people, mostly journalists, gathered at the Russian embassy in Kiev, hanging a picture of Babchenko on the wall and leaving flowers.

Vigils were being planned in Russia and Ukraine.


Ukraine blames Russia for journalist murder

BBC, 30 May 2018

[Update: After this story was published it subsequently became clear that Arkady Babchenko was still alive.]

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has accused Russia of being behind the killing in Kiev of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko.

“I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance,” the prime minister posted on Facebook.

A Kremlin critic, Babchenko was gunned down outside his apartment on Tuesday.

Russia has called for an investigation but said “bloody crimes” had become routine for the “Kiev regime”.

What is known about the killing?

Babchenko, 41, was found bleeding at the entrance to his block of flats by his wife and died in an ambulance.

He was reportedly shot several times in the back.

Ukrainian lawmaker Anton Herashchenko said the journalist had gone out to buy some bread, and that the killer was waiting for him.

Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko told local media they suspected Babchenko was killed because of his “professional activities”.

In his last Facebook post just hours before the attack, Babchenko recalled a lucky escape four years ago – exactly to the day.

He wrote that he had planned to fly with Ukrainian soldiers on a helicopter to the war zone in Ukraine’s east.

He was not allowed on board, because there was not enough space. The helicopter was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, leaving 14 people dead.

Babchenko reported for the BBC about the helicopter crash. “I was lucky. A second birthday, it turns out”, he wrote in his recent Facebook post.

The Ukrainian [kike] prime minister referred to Babchenko’s last Facebook post:

“This is the last post of Arkady Babchenko. Ten hours ago he wrote about his second birthday. And then they killed him. I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance. He was a true friend of Ukraine who told the world the truth about Russian aggression. The killers should be punished.”

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “We demand that the Ukrainian authorities make every effort to promptly investigate.”

It added: “Bloody crimes and total impunity had become routine for the Kiev regime”, while offering condolences to Babchenko’s family and friends.

Journalists and politicians have also been reacting to Babchenko’s murder.

Independent Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats tweeted (in Russian): “There was not a single reason for Arkady Babchenko’s murder apart from what he wrote. No other reason.”
Russian opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov tweeted: “I’m so tired of finding out that my friends, acquaintances and people I know keep getting killed.”

In December 2016, Babchenko wrote a Facebook post (in Russian) about a crashed Tu-154 transport plane, which crashed into the Black Sea while carrying a Red Army choir to Syria.

He claimed this Facebook post, in which he described Russia as an “aggressor”, led to death threats and abuse from the Russian state.

He wrote in a piece for The Guardian that this forced him to leave “a country I no longer feel safe in”.

He first moved to Prague and later to the Ukrainian capital.

Kiev has in recent years seen a number of deadly attacks on high-profile figures, including journalists and politicians. Most of them were vocal critics of the Kremlin.
The leading Belarusian journalist and Kremlin critic, Pavel Sheremet, was killed by a car bomb in Kiev in July 2016.

Another car bomb killed Ukrainian military intelligence officer Col Maxim Shapoval in June 2017 in what the Ukrainian authorities called a terrorist act.

In March of the same year, former Russian MP Denis Voronenkov was shot dead outside a hotel in Kiev.


Ukraine blames Russia for murder of exiled Putin critic

Journalist Arkady Babchenko, who briefly lived in Israel after fleeing Moscow, becomes latest Russian dissident killed in unexplained circumstances

By OLEKSANDR SAVOCHENKO and ANIA TSOUKANOVA
Times of Israel, 30 May 2018

KIEV, Ukraine (AFP) — Ukraine charged on Wednesday that Russia’s “totalitarian machine” was behind the murder of anti-Kremlin reporter Arkady Babchenko, prompting Moscow to furiously deny the blame.

A prominent Russian war correspondent famous for his fierce tirades against Moscow, Babchenko was shot dead on Tuesday evening in an apparent contract-style killing in the stairwell of his building in Kiev. The 41-year-old had moved to the Ukrainian capital last year following a campaign of harassment in Moscow.

He was the latest Kremlin critic living in Kiev to be killed in less than two years.

Ukrainian police have opened a probe into premeditated murder, saying they suspected the crime was linked to his “professional activities.”

“I am convinced that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said late Tuesday.

“A true friend of Ukraine who was telling the world the truth about Russian aggression. His murderers should be punished.”

An aide to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, also pointed the finger at Moscow, writing on Facebook: “The Putin regime targets those it cannot break or intimidate.”

He said the Ukrainian government should ensure the safety of Babchenko’s family.

Many politicians and observers including Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin suggested Russia wanted to sow chaos in the country — already wracked by a four-year conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east — ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

Ties between Russia and Ukraine were shredded after a popular uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed president in Kiev in 2014 and Russia annexed Crimea and moved to support insurgents in the east of the former Soviet state.

Moscow denies blame

Russian authorities furiously denied the blame, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying it was “very sad” Moscow had been accused of murdering the reporter.

“The Ukrainian prime minister is already talking about how it was done by Russian secret services,” he said.

“This fashion of conducting international affairs is very sad,” Lavrov told reporters.

Investigators in Moscow opened their own probe.

“The Investigative Committee is not going to turn a blind eye to the cruel crimes against Russian citizens,” it said in a statement.

Ukrainian police spokesman Yaroslav Trakalo said Babchenko was found bleeding by his wife after she heard shooting, adding that he died in an ambulance on his way to hospital.

The journalist had received three gunshots to the back.

His murder was reminiscent of the assassination of several prominent Kremlin critics in Russia, including politician Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down near the Kremlin in 2015 and journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was shot and killed in the stairwell of her Moscow apartment in 2006.

A number of Kremlin critics have also been killed in Kiev in recent years.

Pavel Sheremet, a dual Russian and Belarusian citizen, died when his car exploded in the centre of Kiev in 2016 in still unexplained circumstances.

Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker who went into exile in Ukraine, was gunned down in central Kiev last year.

‘One Soldier’s War’

Babchenko fought in Russia’s two Chechen campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s before becoming a war correspondent and author. He repeatedly said he faced death threats.

He contributed to a number of media outlets including top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Babchenko was also an avid blogger, accusing Russian authorities of slaughtering Kremlin critics and unleashing wars in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.

He wrote about a young Russian soldier’s experience in the Chechen campaigns in a book published in English under the title “One Soldier’s War.”

He made a name for himself with his poignant reportages from the frontlines, including the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.

In recent years his increasingly bombastic posts constantly pushed the boundaries of good taste and some of his colleagues and followers stopped reading him on Facebook.

But his killing triggered an outpouring of grief among liberal Russians.

Babchenko left Russia in February 2017 after receiving threats, living first in the Czech Republic and Israel before moving to Kiev.

Vigils in memory of the slain journalist were planned in Russia and Ukraine.


Russia rejects claim it was behind dissident journalist’s killing

Ukraine accuses Moscow of shooting dead Putin critic Arkady Babchenko

Andrew Roth Moscow correspondent and agencies
The Guardian, 30 May 2018

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has rejected a Ukrainian allegation that Moscow was behind the murder of a dissident Russian journalist in Kiev, calling it part of an anti-Russian campaign, according to Moscow media reports.

Arkady Babchenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in Ukraine on Tuesday, where he had fled into exile after a series of threats. Police in Kiev said the high-profile murder may have been linked to his reporting.

Lavrov said it was “very sad” that Moscow has been accused of the murder, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Ukrainian prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, said in a social media posting late on Tuesday he was convinced that what he called “the Russian totalitarian machine” had not forgiven Babchenko for what Groysman called his honesty.

Babchenko, a veteran Russian war correspondent, was shot three times in the back as he left his apartment to buy bread. He was found bleeding by his wife. Babchenko, 41, died in the ambulance to the hospital, a government official said.

The killing appeared to be targeted. The gunman had apparently laid in wait for him outside his apartment. The head of Ukraine’s police force said that two motives were being considered: his “professional work and civil position”. Police on Tuesday evening had not named a suspect, but did post a sketch of a bearded man in a baseball hat.

Babchenko had grown highly critical of the Russian government in recent years. He criticised Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for the separatists of south-east Ukraine. He left Russia in February 2017, writing that it was “a country I no longer feel safe in”.

Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner, described Babchenko’s murder as “shocking”. “I have no doubt that the cause of this monstrous crime was Arkady’s public political position and his professional journalistic activities,” Navalny wrote.

“Arkasha would shoot straight from the hip every day in such a brazen manner that even those close to him felt uneasy sometimes,” wrote Pavel Kanygin, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta, referring to his friend by his nickname.

“This is a terror attack against the journalism community both in Russia and Ukraine. The killers attacked all of us by choosing the most sincere, noisy and brave one, the one who is in the public eye.”

A number of Novaya Gazeta journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in the stairwell of her Moscow apartment in 2006.

The killing was the most recent murder of a high-profile dissident in Kiev, a city that has become a refuge for some of Moscow’s most vehement critics, as well as the scene of targeted assassinations that have remained unsolved for years.

In 2016, the investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed in a car bombing outside his flat. Some journalists have claimed Ukraine’s powerful intelligence agency has sought to stifle the investigation.

Babchenko’s murder quickly attracted international attention. Harlem Désir, the media freedom representative at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he was horrified by Babchenko’s death. “I call on Ukraine authorities to conduct immediate & full investigation,” he tweeted.

Ukrainian and Russian officials immediately blamed one another over his death. Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker who serves as an adviser to the interior minister, said on Facebook that investigators would be looking at “Russian spy agencies’ efforts to get rid of those who are trying to tell the truth about what is going on in Russia and Ukraine”.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), said Ukrainian allegations the FSB was behind the killing were nonsense and a provocation, the Interfax news agency reported.

“Ukraine is becoming the most dangerous country for reporters,” the Russian lawmaker Yevgeny Revenko said in remarks carried by RIA Novosti, the state news agency. “The Ukrainian government can’t guarantee basic freedoms.”

Babchenko served as a soldier in both wars in Chechnya before turning his bleak experience into the acclaimed memoir One Soldier’s War. He served as a war correspondent for more than a decade, writing about the war in Georgia and later in southeast Ukraine.

He fled Russia in 2017 after provoking a scandal in a Facebook post that expressed indifference over the deaths of a military choir and other passengers aboard a Russian plane that crashed en route to Syria.

In the backlash, his home address was published and he received personal threats. Some called for Babchenko to be stripped of his Russian citizenship.

Reuters contributed to this report


Russia, Ukraine blame each other for journalist killing

By Angela Dewan, Antonia Mortensen and Mary Ilyushina, CNN

May 30, 2018

[Update: Reportedly murdered journalist appears alive]

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A Russian journalist who wrote for opposition media was shot dead on May 28, 2018 in Kiev, Ukrainian police said. Arkadi Babchenko was shot in his apartment building in the Ukrainian capital.

[Update: Reportedly murdered journalist appears alive]

[Update: A day after Arkady Babchenko was reported to have been killed, it was revealed that his death was staged by Ukranian security services, apparently to expose a plot to kill him.]

Moscow and Kiev are blaming each other for the death of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was shot dead in his apartment building in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman implied Russia had orchestrated the killing. Babchenko was a vocal critic of the Kremlin and left Russia in 2017, saying he no longer felt safe there.

“I’m sure that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and his fidelity to principle,” Groysman said in a Facebook post.

“Best friend of Ukraine, who told the truth about Russian aggression to the world. The murderers must be punished!”

Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform said Babchenko, 41, was shot in the back and died in an ambulance, citing his friend and supervisor, Ayder Muzhdabaev, deputy general manager of Ukrainian TV channel ATR.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slammed Ukraine on Wednesday as an unsafe place for journalists to work.

“We know that many people are dying, many journalists are dying, journalists are thrown into prison for doing journalist work. We consider this unacceptable, we believe that this should be the topic for a very tough international reaction that will encourage the Ukrainian authorities to take effective measures to rectify the situation,” he said.

When asked for his response to Ukraine’s accusations that Russia was behind the killing, Peskov dismissed the idea as anti-Russian.

“This is the highest level of cynicism amid such a brutal murder, to shake the air in such a Russophobic way, instead of talking about conducting a thorough and impartial investigation.”

But ATR’s Muzhdabaev pointed out that Babchenko did not report on Ukrainian affairs and said his journalism was solely focused on Russian affairs.

“He did not do anything else. He did not conduct any investigations, did not write anything about Ukrainian affairs, exclusively journalism about the Russian government, about their actions, about their criminal activities, that’s all,” he said.

Russian-Ukrainian relations were plunged into crisis in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and as pro-Russian rebels seized parts of the east of Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the killing of Babchenko.

“We must defend freedom of speech and it is vital that those responsible are now held to account,” he wrote on Twitter.

The UK has blamed Russia for the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, on British soil, but Moscow denies the accusation. The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Manhunt underway

Ukrainian police are now searching for the man they believe to be responsible for Babchenko’s death.

The Interior Ministry released a sketch of a bearded man wearing a baseball cap, and described him as being in his early 40s, between 175 and 180 centimeters tall, of average build and with gray in his beard.

Babchenko left Russia after he criticized the Kremlin in a Facebook post in 2017.

He faced backlash after commenting on the crash of a Russian plane transporting the world-famous military choir Alexandrov Ensemble en route to Syria. They were traveling to perform for pilots involved in Russia’s air campaign on Aleppo.

Babchenko called Russia an aggressor, and accused the country of killing children in its air support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime..

CNN’s Nathan Hodge, Mary Ilyushina and Antonia Mortensen reported from Moscow, Denis Lapin reported from Kiev, and Angela Dewan and Vasco Cotovio reported from London.


Anti-Putin Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko shot dead in Ukraine capital

Roland Oliphant, senior foreign correspondent
The Telegraph [UK], 30 MAY 2018

[UPDATE, 30 May: Following publication of this article, it was revealed that Mr Babchenko had not in fact died as reported.]

A prominent Russian journalist known for his sharp criticism of Vladimir Putin has been murdered in the Ukrainian capital.

Arkady Babchenko, 41, was found by his wife in a pool of blood at their Kiev apartment on Tuesday evening. He had been shot in the back.

He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital, Ukrainian police said.

Babchenko, who became one of Russia’s most famous war correspondents after writing a memoir of his service as a conscript and later professional solider in the Chechen wars, went into exile in 2017 saying he had received multiple threats to himself and his family.

He had emerged as a bitter online critic of the Putin government in recent years, posting regular blogs attacking the Kremlin on his Facebook page.

He had in turn been attacked by pro-Kremlin and nationalist politicians and activists, who have in the past called him a “fifth columnist.”

Babchenko appeared to reference even more serious threats just hours before he died.

In a Tweet posted Monday afternoon, he wrote: “When the president’s representative openly posts an offer to have you killed.”

The Tweet linked to a Facebook post from 2014, later deleted, in which he said Marina Yudenich, who formerly worked for the Kremlin, had called on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to ” invite me for tea.”

Mr Kadyrov is widely believed to be linked to the murders of several prominent Kremlin critics, including the 2015 assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow.

Babchenko’s murder comes two years after Pavel Sheremet, a prominent liberal Belarussian journalist, was killed in a car bombing in Kiev. Sheremet’s murder has not been solved.

In October last year Amina Okueva, a Chechen rebel fighter who had fought on the Ukrainian side against Russian forces in east Ukraine, was gunned down in Kiev. Her husband, Adam Osmaev, had survived a previous assassination attempt in the city.

Much of Babchenko’s ire for the Kremlin sprang from his experiences on its battlefields.

His war memoir, One Soldier’s War in Chechnya, is a harrowing and brutally honest account of the chaos and dehumanising horror of the first and second Chechen wars in the 1990s.

As a war correspondent, he went on to write angrily about the human toll of the Kremlin’s military entanglements in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria.

His positions did not make him popular with nationalists and pro-Kremlin politicians, and he later described being “used to abuse.”

He became the focus of what he called a particular vicious campaign of “political intimidation” after he wrote on Facebook that he had “neither sympathy or pity” for dozens of members of a Russian army choir who died in an air crash en route to Syria in 2016.

Several pro-Kremlin politicians made public calls for him to be publicly punished, including by being stripped of citizenship, deported, or having his property confiscated.

“It was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee,” he wrote after he had left Russia.

He lived in Prague and Israel before moving to Kiev last summer.

Babchenko’s life was defined by his work as a war correspondent to the last.

In his last Tweet, posted just ten hours before his body was found, he recalled how he had narrowly escaped death while covering the war in Ukraine in 2014.

“Four years ago General Kulchitsky refused to take me on this helicopter because it was full,” he wrote.

An hour after this photograph was taken it crashed. Fourteen people died. But I was lucky. It turned out to be my second birthday.”




Arkady Babchenko: ‘I made that shirt with bullet holes in it’

BBC, May 31, 2018

Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko has revealed how Ukrainian authorities faked his death on Tuesday as part of a sting operation to foil an alleged Russian assassination plot.

After pig’s blood and a make-up artist were used to pull off the stunt, Babchenko watched news of his death unfold on television from a morgue.

His closest relatives were in on the hoax, including his wife, who had returned from a trip to Moscow on Monday, Mr Babchenko said.

Ukrainian television show the image of Babchenko on his front, bleeding from alleged bullet wounds to his back. A faked picture of a supposedly dead Babchenko was released by police to the media.

On Tuesday evening, dressed in a bullet-torn shirt and covered in pig’s blood, Mr Babchenko played dead while he was taken from the scene at his home in an ambulance.

Neighbours later told local media they saw an ambulance drive away at 20:30 local time (17:30 GMT) but no-one had heard gunshots.

Doctors pronounced him dead.

From the morgue, where he changed clothes, Mr Babchenko watched television reports on his death until he was taken to a safe house.


Ukrainian President Kike Petro Poroshenko met The Walking Dead Kike Babchenko, and announced that Kiev would offer protection to Babchenko and his family stating: “It is unlikely that Moscow will calm down.

Arkady Babchenko tells media he was taken to morgue for staged ‘murder’

Russian journalist smeared with pig’s blood as part of ruse with Ukrainian authorities

Luke Harding in London, and Christopher Miller in Kiev

The Guardian, 31 May 2018

Preparations for Arkady Babchenko’s fake murder were meticulous. They went on for “a long time, a month”, Babchenko revealed. On the day of his “assassination” a make-up artist came in to his apartment. He practised falling over. “I was made up, the blood was natural. Everything was for real,” he said.

After the staged shooting by an imaginary assassin his wife rang the police and called an ambulance. The paramedics and doctors turned up, lugged him on to a stretcher and carried him out into the street and into a vehicle. “The legend was that I was still alive [at that point],” he said.

“We left, then I ‘died’,” Babchenko recounted. “The ambulance reported in the fact of my death, after which I was taken to the morgue. Until the gates closed, I played at being dead,” the journalist said.

Once inside, and in a secure area, Babchenko said he was “resurrected”. “I got up, took off my T-shirt and washed. I turned on the TV. I sat down and watched news of my ‘murder’. After that I was taken to a secure location. It all ended at five in the morning.”

International journalist groups, and fellow correspondents, have complained that the SBU’s methods have handed a propaganda gift to the Kremlin.

On Thursday Ukraine’s government defended its decision to falsify Babchenko’s death. In London, Ukraine’s embassy released a defensive statement, pleading with international partners to support its fight against Moscow. “The hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine demands unorthodox approaches while effecting countermeasures,” the embassy said.

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, said he was deeply puzzled by the reaction of several international organisations.

“We are surprised by the statements made by a large number of international organisations, which said that we ‘misled society.’” Avakov asked. “From now on, Ukrainian security services and law enforcement agencies will not be guided by public opinion, by what this or that pseudo-ethical authority will say about them.”

Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Kiev-based Institute for Mass Information (IMI), a media watchdog, speaking about the international criticism of the operation, Romaniuk said she felt embarrassed. “Everybody now feels manipulated,” she said, but admitted that part of her found the whole thing to be “cool”.

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