Ukrainian authorities were raked over the coals for faking a Russian journalist’s death — as the very-much-alive reporter defended the scheme Thursday, telling critics to “go f–k themselves.”
Arkady Babchenko stunned friends, colleagues and observers when he showed up at a news conference Wednesday apparently back from the dead, after Ukrainian police announced he’d been assassinated just a day earlier.
Officials said the plot was meant to flush out Moscow-backed assassins hunting the former war correspondent — who fled to Kiev in early 2017 after receiving death threats for expressing anti-Kremlin sentiments.
But people wondered why it was necessary to fake 41-year-old Babchenko’s death in order to nab the mastermind behind the murder plot, and reporters said the scheme would undermine the very real murders of journalists worldwide.
“Ukrainian authorities must disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder. CPJ is investigating this unprecedented situation and will have further comment once we have more details,” the Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted.
“So now every time a journalist is murdered, those responsible will unleash their bots and propagandists to say it’s fake news. Thanks, Ukrainian security services. That’s really helpful to all who care about journalists’ safety,” tweeted Lindsey Hilsum, international editor for Channel 4 News in Great Britain.
“A mindless and tragic mistreatment of public empathy that discredits so many things at once — Ukraine, Russian liberals, journalists. Only Kremlin wins,” wrote Leonid Ragozin, a former BBC and Russian Newsweek journalist.
Babchenko responded with a “f*ck you.”
“The British media is questioning whether there is really more harm than good that came from what I did? Dear British press, would you please go and f*ck yourselves? If you want to do something useful however, you can give me a British passport and British protection. Then you will have the right to teach me how I should save myself and my family. F*cking smart-a*ses!” he wrote on his Facebook page, in response to a commenter’s links to critical UK newspaper headlines.
He also responded sarcastically to anyone alleging Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the plot “just for a laugh.”
“They [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,’” he posted.
Babchenko also expressed relief at being safe and alive after the real threat on his life.
“God how wonderful it is not be a target,” he wrote. “When you know for sure — everything, this time everything, it’s over,” he posted.
Meanwhile, Moscow officials accused Ukraine of anti-Russian propaganda.
“That Babchenko is alive is the best news,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook. “Wish it was always like that. It’s too bad that in other cases, the masquerade didn’t quite come off.”
One senior lawmaker compared the Babchenko case to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK, which Moscow has denied being involved in. Konstantin Kosachev said the poisoning was something used “by hook or by crook” by the UK to defame Russia, CNN reported.
A man who allegedly was paid $40,000 by the Russian security service to organize and carry out the hit on Babchenko was detained Wednesday.
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