The Irish Times view on Arkady Babchenko: faking a death in Kiev

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered in Kiev on Tuesday, attends a news briefing by the Ukrainian state security service on Wednesday. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered in Kiev on Tuesday, attends a news briefing by the Ukrainian state security service on Wednesday. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

 

When dissident Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko walked into a press conference on his own murder in Kiev this week, it took only minutes for some people’s shock and relief to turn to indignation. Even as Babchenko and Ukraine’s SBU security service described staging his death to thwart an alleged Russian multiple-murder plot, a chorus of complaint was building.

Journalists, and then press freedom watchdogs, said Ukraine’s ruse further damaged brittle faith in Kiev’s authorities and the media, and handed a victory to those from the Kremlin to the White House who insist that facts are relative and inconvenient stories are fake news.

How, critics asked, will people know whether to believe future announcements from Ukraine’s political and security chiefs, who are already widely seen as untrustworthy and corrupt? Russia, having denied involvement in the apparent murder, now condemned Ukraine’s use of “propaganda” and compared the Babchenko affair to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, which Moscow claims was staged to further sully its reputation. It is striking, however, that foreign journalists and commentators were far more scathing of the operation than their counterparts in Ukraine.

Maybe that is partly because Ukrainians sadly do not expect officials to always tell the truth, and they know this case will be used for PR purposes by the beleaguered SBU and political leaders eyeing next year’s national elections. Yet perhaps it is also because Ukrainians live in a country that is defending itself every day against a powerful and aggressive neighbour that uses an array of open and covert means to undermine it. If the SBU proves that it did indeed foil Moscow’s plot to kill Babchenko and some 30 other Russian exiles, then few Ukrainians are likely to lament that journalists and their readers were misled for a day.

And they will also reject comparisons with Russia, and the lies it has told for four years about its occupation of Crimea, the downing of the MH17 airliner, and its leading role in a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.