Up until very recently, the world believed that Ukrainian journalist Arkady Babchenko, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had been assassinated in his apartment in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Then, he showed up to a press conference.
The staggering publicity stunt unfolded when police told the press they were to hold a briefing about his assassination. Then, casually as ever, Babchenko walked in, unharmed — and all of this less than 24 hours after his wife said she had found him bleeding to death on the floor of their apartment, having been shot in the back by Russian agents.
“First of all, I would like to apologize that all of you had to live through this, because I know the horrible feeling when you have to bury your colleagues,” Mr. Babchenko, 41, told the roomful of open-mouthed journalists, as reported by The New York Times. “Separately, I want to apologize to my wife for all the hell she had to go through.”
According to reports, Babchenko’s wife, Olechka, had absolutely no idea that her husband’s death was an elaborate sham.
Audible gasps and applause from reporters as Arkady Babchenko enters the press conference about his 'murder' pic.twitter.com/Bp5hlyqrYl
— David Mack (@davidmackau) May 30, 2018
— Will Maule (@maule_will) May 30, 2018
Yep, Mr. Babchenko just pulled a Lazarus.
So what exactly happened? As it turned out, it was all a ploy, thought up by the Ukrainian security services to flush out whoever was behind a $40,000 bounty, allegedly funded by Russia, that had been put on his life. Pretty genius, right?
Well, not everyone agreed with their flamboyant tactics.
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. #Babchenko
— Lindsey Hilsum (@lindseyhilsum) May 30, 2018
One thing is for certain: the reporters who were lucky enough to be in that press room will have a good story to tell.
Weirdest press conference of my life. Babchenko is alive. It was part of a sting to uncover an attempt on his life SBU says organized by Ukrainian citizen funded with $40k from Russia pic.twitter.com/Jk5j8MnQSr
— Ian Bateson (@ianbateson) May 30, 2018