The Death and Revival of a Russian Journalist

Samridhi Sharma - 3A Chemical
Posted on: June 16, 2018

On Tuesday, May 29th, Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who was an open critic of the Kremlin, was reported to have been found shot near his apartment in Kiev, Ukraine. His wife phoned emergency services when she found him and Babchenko was pronounced dead by the doctor in the ambulance after failed attempts at resuscitation.

The Ukrainian and Russian governments were quick to point fingers at each other and the tension between the countries increased. Ukraine stated that the assassination was Russia’s doing as Babchenko was a prominent critic of Russia. Russia blamed Ukraine for maintaining hostile environments for the journalists.

The events took an interesting turn, when the next morning, on Wednesday May 30th, Babchenko appeared alive at a press conference. According to Babchenko, after having been pronounced dead, he was taken to the morgue where he was able to “come back to life” and watch the news reports about his death. In order to fake his death, he had worn a shirt with a bullet hole, and used pig blood to simulate bleeding. This whole elaborate set up was done in cahoots with the Ukrainian police to leech out Russian terrorists who were allegedly planning on assassinating Babchenko. The Ukrainian security has reportedly made one arrest pertaining to the case.

Babchenko was met with many critics since this act. Some believe that this whole play undermines the trust that people have in journalists. Others think that this was Ukraine’s way to increase the world’s hostility towards Russia.

Babchenko argued that he was thinking about his life and “journalistic ethics” were not his priority. He maintains the stance that he would have been assassinated had it not been for the faked death. The fake assassination actually foiled the real assassination plans. He claims that the operation had been in motion for two months and he had no choice but to participate.

There was also criticism that Ukrainian security staged this operation just for fun and Babchenko was quick to shut them down with a Facebook post. “[Ukrainian authorities] are all, like, ‘We are kinda bored, we have nothing to do … Let’s paint Babchenko’s back with blood, make his face a giant bloodclot, take him to the morgue and say that it was like that from the beginning?’ And all these guys were like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s do it! Because we really have nothing else to do … Well, okay, if it happened in Russia — nothing there surprises me any more.”

Babchenko formally apologized to everyone, especially his wife and reiterated the fact that he had no choice with the operation being under preparation for months. He said he that he had been forced to bury his friends before and it was a “sickening feeling.”

After the revelation of Babchenko’s fake death, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova expressed her happiness about Babchenko being alive, but she also speculated about it all being a Ukrainian propaganda exercise against Russia. “That Babchenko is alive is the best news,” she said on Facebook. “Wish it was always like that. It’s too bad that in other cases, the masquerade didn’t quite come off.”

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