What do we know about journalist Arkady Babchenko and the alleged plot to kill him?


Updated

May 31, 2018 12:04:20

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko stunned a news conference when he turned up alive two days after he was supposedly murdered.

Ukraine’s special forces revealed Babchenko’s ‘murder’ had been staged in an attempt to flush out Russian agents who were trying to kill him.

Babchenko used the conference to apologise to his wife, who also believed he had been murdered.

Here’s what we know about him, and why hitmen were after him.

Who is Arkady Babchenko?

Babchenko is one of Russia’s best-known war correspondents

The 41-year-old took part in the war in Chechnya before he became a war reporter for several Russian newspapers.

In February last year, he wrote on Facebook that he left Russia because of threats made against him and his family. Babchenko has a wife and six children, all of whom thought he had been killed in the staged plot.

Just hours before the “shooting”, Babchenko posted on Facebook that he considered the day a “second birthday” because four years earlier he had missed a flight on a Ukrainian military helicopter that was shot down in the conflict between Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists.

After revealing that he was still alive today, Ukraine’s special forces said it was Babchenko’s “third birthday”.

Why were assassins after him?

In his career as a journalist, Babchenko became known as a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He reported on Russia sending private military contractors to Syria and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine.

In a piece for The Guardian, Babchenko said the backlash to one of his Facebook posts in 2016 was the reason he fled Russia.

According to Babchencko, in the post he expressed “indifference” over a Russian plane crash that killed 92 members of a well-known military choir.

Speaking to Israeli newspaper Haaretz after he fled, Babchenko compared Mr Putin to Saddam Hussein.

“Children were starving to death while Saddam Hussein continued to build himself palaces of gold. In the end, it all blew up. I think that in Russia too, there will be 15-30 years of slow death, until there’s an explosion,” he said.

Here’s what Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko said when he was asked why Babchenko was targeted:

“The first and the most probable version is his professional activity.”

What do we know about the plot to kill Babchenko?

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said it had received information about a plot to kill 30 people in Ukraine, and Babchenko was one of them.

It declined to name the other 29 people.

Babchenko had allegedly had a contract on his head for two months.

A Ukrainian citizen had allegedly been paid $US40,000 ($52,934) by Russian agents to organise the killing, according to the SBU

The Ukrainian man then hired as the gunman an acquaintance who had fought in the Crimean conflict.

SBU chief Vasyl Gritsak said the organiser of the plot was detained on Wednesday.

OK. But why pretend that Babchenko was dead?

We don’t know.

Babchenko said he wasn’t allowed to go into details about his false death.

Authorities didn’t elaborate either.

Is he safe now?

Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko said he had ordered law enforcement agencies to protect Babchenko and his family.

And what do the Russians think about all this?

They’re not amused.

After his “death” was reported, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected claims the Kremlin had anything to do with it.

In the wake of today’s revelations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the Ukrainian government was “fanning anti-Russian hysteria. We’re confident our foreign partners and the relevant international agencies will draw correct conclusions from the whole situation.”

ABC/Reuters

Topics:

crime,

law-crime-and-justice,

world-politics,

journalism,

ukraine,

russian-federation

First posted

May 31, 2018 10:51:39



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