A Russian journalist who, with the help of Ukrainian police, faked his own death said on Wednesday that he has no plans to die until he has “danced on Putin’s grave.”
On Wednesday, Arkady Babchenko surprised many by showing up alive at a televised news conference in Kiev, a day after Ukrainian authorities told the press he was found shot dead. He claimed the Ukrainian secret service faked his death as part of a special intelligence operation to catch those plotting his assassination.
The day before, Ukrainian officials said that Babchenko had died after being shot at home by an unknown assailant, leading Moscow and Kiev to blame one another for his death.
Video of his colleagues watching the press conference – and being shocked to see their fellow journalist on television alive – quickly spread through social media.
Реакція журналістів ATR 😍
Відео – Kateryna Lisunova pic.twitter.com/GmkBcXc157
— Радіо Свобода (@radiosvoboda) May 30, 2018
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Babchenko, who fled Russia early last year fearing for his life, said he hoped to “die at the age of 96, having danced on Putin’s grave” as well as “taking a selfie standing on a tank” in downtown Moscow.
“I want to thank all Ukrainians who were not indifferent, who were ready to fight and act in order to save the country,” he said, adding that Babchenko was at risk of an attack from a Russian citizen who “owns a huge arsenal of weapons, can create arms dumps and organize terrorist acts.”
“We finally learned to defend,” Poroshenko said. “Defend the country, defend its citizens and do it with extraordinary professional efforts of the new Security Service, which is capable of passing exams of any complexity.”
Yet the hoax attracted criticism from some human rights groups, who described the move as a “pathetic stunt.”
“It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive,” the head of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, told AFP news agency.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also demanded that authorities explain “what necessitated [such an] extreme measure.”
“We are relieved that
#ArkadyBabchenko is alive, Ukrainian authorities must disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder,” the group wrote on Twitter. “CPJ is investigating this unprecedented situation and will have further comment once we have more details.”
We are relieved that #ArkadyBabchenko is alive. 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.
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) May 30, 2018
However, Babchenko later hit back at what he described as “the keepers of morality, who are dissatisfied with the fact that I somehow wrongly, in their opinion, did not die.”
In recent years, dozens of Russian journalists have been attacked, murdered, or died in mysterious circumstances, after speaking out against Putin’s Russia.