World

‘Murdered’ Russian Journalist Strolls Into Ukraine News Conference, Offers ‘Special Apologies to My Wife’

A day after Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was allegedly murdered in Ukraine, he reappeared at a press conference and apologized to his wife for having his death staged.

Ukrainian authorities had announced Tuesday that Babchenko was killed by an armed assailant at his apartment in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. The outpouring of condolences was immediate, and many were quick to blame Russia for the murder.

"I am convinced that the Russian totalitarian machine could not forgive his honesty and principled position,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman posted on Facebook Tuesday. The Kremlin subsequently issued a statement calling for an investigation into the murder.

But authorities in Ukraine now claim that they had staged the journalist’s death in an effort to capture those who were actually trying to kill him. During a press conference, the journalist claimed that Russian government services had attempted to murder him, but that the would-be killer had been caught in a sting operation last night due to his faked death.

The journalist’s wife and six adopted children had not been informed about the plan to fake his death.

"Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here," Babchenko said during the press conference. "I'm sorry for making you live through this. I've buried my own friends and colleagues many times myself."

Pundits were quick to claim that Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed separatists on its territory since 2014, had destroyed its own credibility by staging a murder. In an era of fake news and Russian disinformation, many say that it is unwise to cry wolf and important to uphold the truth.

But Evelyn Farkas, who served as the Obama administration's deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine, said the fact that Babchenko's murder was staged shouldn't distract from the Kremlin's habit of assassinating its opponents. 

"It clearly is not helpful to Ukraine’s cause in terms of their credibility with the press and the international community, but the reality is that we all believed it because it fits into a pattern of Russian behavior...of extraterritorial and extrajudicial killings," Farkas told Newsweek. "We've all accepted that's what Russia does. To my mind, we’re all kind of complicit in some kind of charade." 

Ukraine's security officials said that the operation had been planned for several months, and that it succeeded in preventing a Russian plan to kill Babchenko. It is unclear why the government decided that staging the journalist's death was the most appropriate way to catch the conspirator. 

This story has been updated to include new commentary. 

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