MOSCOW — Moscow has branded the "resurrection" of Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko "propaganda" and claimed it casts doubt on other accusations made by the West.
Babchenko was widely reported to have been assassinated in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday, before surprising virtually everyone by turning up alive at a news conference less than 24 hours later.The head of Ukraine's security services later told reporters that they had faked Babchenko's death to catch those who were trying to kill him. Even the reporter's wife and six children were kept out of the loop. Officials accused the Russian security services of ordering the attempted assassination of Babchenko.In a statement Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow accused Ukraine of "fanning anti-Russian hysteria" and said the episode was "another anti-Russian provocation."Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote a separate statement on her Facebook page stating that it was "obvious that a propaganda effect was part of the plan."Russian state media used the Babchenko incident to raise questions about other allegations made against the Kremlin. RT drew a comparison between the Babchenko case and the recent poisonings and recoveries of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia — insinuating that both incidents had been faked.Britain says the Skripals were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent called Novichok and has blamed Russia for the attack. Moscow has denied any involvement.
An article published in business daily Vedomosti argued that the Babchenko incident meant it'll be much harder for people to believe not just media reports, but also official confirmations by authorities. On Tuesday, Ukraine's national police announced that the Russian journalist had been shot in a targeted killing."In the long term, this not only kills the credibility of 'confirmed,' information, but it also erodes the already narrowing line between reality and fiction," Vedomosti said.Babchenko has been critical of Moscow's annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin's support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian military campaign in Syria. Reports of the 41-year-old's assassination were followed by journalists flooding social media with obituaries and tributes.But some warned the Babchenko incident raised serious ethical questions and could end up hurting both the Ukrainian government and the media's credibility.
"What really scares me is when [the] next journalist is murdered in Ukraine no one is going to believe it," Myroslava Petsa, a journalist with the BBC's Ukrainian service, wrote on Twitter.However, while Putin critic and chess grandmasterGary Kasaprov described the case as "a bizarre charade," he added: "I've had too many colleagues beaten [and] murdered to be anything but happy that Arkady Babchenko is alive and well."