Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Week UK: ‘Murdered’ journalist Arkady Babchenko turns up alive

The Week UK

World News
Arkady Babchenko: ‘murdered’ journalist who fled Russia appears on Ukrainian TV
May 30, 2018
Kremlin critic’s death had been faked in an attempt to flush out people who were trying to kill him


Wikimedia Commons

Arkady Babchenko in August 2008

Arkady Babchenko, the Russian journalist and Kremlin critic who was reported this morning to have been shot dead in Ukraine, has appeared alive at a news conference.

Babchenko was earlier reported to have been shot three times in the back outside his apartment building in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, but in an unexpected turn of events he appeared on live TV this afternoon, flanked by Ukrainian security officials.

At the news conference, the head of the Ukrainian security service, Vasily Gritsak, said that Babchenko’s death had been faked in an attempt to flush out an unidentified group of people who were trying to kill him.

According to CNN, it not known whether Babchenko's wife and friend were aware of the operation.
See related
Will EU sanctions force Putin to change tactics in Ukraine?
Skripal poisoning: doctors feared ‘all-consuming’ nerve attack
What happened to Alexander Litvinenko?

Babchenko fled his homeland in 2017, saying it was “a country I no longer feel safe in”. He said that senior politicians had called for his deportation, and that his home address was published online, after he publicly criticising Russia’s military actions in Syria.

After he was reported dead this morning, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed Ukraine for Babchenko’s killing, and demanded an independent investigation.

However, Ayder Muzhdabaev, a friend of the journalist, pointed out to Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform that Babchenko has never written about Ukrainian affairs, but rather “about the Russian government, about their actions, about their criminal activities, that’s all”.

Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker who serves as adviser to the interior minister, said investigators have intended to examine “the actions of Russian intelligence agencies to get rid of those who are trying to tell the truth”.

The intriguing case of Arkady Babchenko comes after a “series of attacks, many of them fatal, on outspoken foes of President Vladimir V. Putin, both inside Russia and beyond”, says The New York Times.
Skripals and Litvinenko

The UK government blamed Russia for the nerve agent attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury earlier this year. The Foreign Office said it had taken Russia’s “record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations” into account when making that assessment.

The Salisbury attack has drawn comparison to the 2006 murder of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko using radioactive polonium-210, thought to have been administered in a cup of tea during a meeting at a London hotel. The UK public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death said there was a “strong probability” that his killers, two Russian agents, were acting on behalf of their country’s FSB secret service.

In 2017, BuzzFeed News identified 14 deaths of Russians or Russian-linked individuals in Britain, and pointed to several further unsolved deaths in the US. Ukraine has also recorded multiple suspected assassinations in the past few years.
Russia’s ‘wetwork’

The Kremlin vehemently denies such attacks, although in 2010 Putin chillingly warned that “traitors will kick the bucket”.

Targeted killings have often been used to “undermine foreign countries and send important psychological messages to opponents and ‘traitors’”, says Dan Lomas, programme leader for the MA in intelligence and security studies at the University of Salford.

Writing on The Conversation, Lomas says: “Russia’s use of ‘wetwork’ (from the Russian mokroye delo, literally ‘wet affairs’, referring to the spilling of blood) has long been a part of Russian intelligence history.

“What began with the Cheka, the first Soviet security agency, continued to the NKVD, SMERSH (drawn from the phrase smert shpionam, meaning ‘death to spies’), the KGB, and its successors in the modern day FSB and SVR (the Russian foreign intelligence service).”

Unearthing the truth about the long list of suspicious deaths is “difficult in the extreme”, says Reuters, and it “might be simplistic to suggest Putin ordered all of the killings”.

The news site notes, however, that “despite Russia’s denials, it is unquestionably true that Kremlin enemies often end up dead”.

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