If Arkady Babchenko Walks Outside, and Sees His Shadow, It Means 6 More Weeks of Winter

Roll Tape

This just in, Arkady Babchenko is still alive:

The assassination bore all the hallmarks of yet another contract killing carried out in the murky shadows of the conflict pitting Russia against Ukraine.

A photo of the victim, a dissident Russian journalist, showed him lying face down Tuesday in a vermilion pool of his own blood. He was found by his wife, and died on the way to a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds to the back, said the police in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.

Then on Wednesday, the journalist, Arkady Babchenko, to all appearances very much alive, walked into a news conference that Ukrainian security officials had called to discuss his “murder.”


The staged death, said Vasily S. Gritsak, the head of the Ukraine Security Service, was a sting operation aimed at stopping a real assassination plot against Mr. Babchenko. It was the latest twist — if an especially bizarre one — in the tortured relations between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and is fueling a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia constantly lob charges and countercharges accusing each other of various forms of skulduggery. And they often accuse each other of fabricating claims. The announcement by the Ukrainian authorities that they had, in fact, made up the Babchenko killing offered the Russians a rare chance to claim the high ground. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a blistering statement, saying Ukraine would be better off solving real crimes, like the killing of two journalists in Kiev in 2015 and 2016.

“Matters of life and death in Ukraine, as well as trust of the international community to its policy, are nothing more than a bargaining chip used to fuel the anti-Russian hysteria of the Kiev regime,” the Russian statement said.

Both the story of Mr. Babchenko’s death and that of his resurrection garnered enormous attention around the world.

Various voices, especially from the world of journalism, called the ploy a bad idea in an era when battling fake news has become a daily problem — and when real news is dismissed as fake news whenever politicians from Washington to the Kremlin find it in their interest to do so.

I am not entirely clear of how this all works, but it appears that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

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