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Ukraine: Dissident reported murdered turns up alive

Wednesday 30 May 2018 - 12:32pm

Arkady Babchenko

Update - 30 May 2018

Following the release of our statement regarding the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, PEN is relieved to hear he is alive and well. In a press conference earlier today, Babchenko stated that he faked his own death as part of an inquiry into threats against his life.

‘In a world where lies are called alternate facts, and where information is manipulated to distort reality, it takes peculiar courage to play the game and trick the malevolent forces, to stress the grim fact: that journalists' and writers' lives are at grave danger. That Arkady Babchenko is alive is a matter of relief and a cause to celebrate; that he had to fake his death to expose those who threaten his life - and the lives of many others - remains a cause of enormous concern. We remember the unsolved murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Pavel Sheremet. This culture of impunity must end; journalists and writers must be able to operate freely, without fear. Authorities in Russia and Ukraine must take immediate steps to investigate the charges made and reassure journalists and writers of their safety.‘ Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee

PEN International deplores the murder in Kiev yesterday of prominent Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. The organisation believes he was targeted because of his journalistic work.

Arkady Babchenko, 41, was reportedly shot three times in the back on 29 May as he left his apartment in Kiev to buy bread. He was found by his wife but died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

A former war correspondent with leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Arkady Babchenko had grown critical of the Russian authorities in recent years. He was a vocal opponent of Russia’s occupation and illegal ‘annexation’ of Crimea in 2014 and left Russia in February 2017 after writing that he no longer felt safe in the country. He moved to Prague before settling in Kiev, where he worked as a presenter on Ukraine's channel ATR TV. The Ukrainian security forces said they were considering his ‘professional work and civil position’ as main motives for his killing.

The shocking murder of Arkady Babchenko is a despicable crime and a stark reminder of the dangers faced by journalists as a result of their work’ said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International. ‘The Ukrainian authorities must do everything in their power to independently, impartially and efficiently investigate his killing and bring all those responsible to justice’.

Arkady Babchenko was drafted to fight in the first Chechen War in 1995, and then in late 1999 volunteered to return for six months during the second Chechen War. He is the author of One Soldier’s War, which makes plain the degradation experienced by ordinary Russian soldiers who served in the war. English PEN’s Writers in Translation Programme supported the book, translated by Nick Allen and published by Portobello Books, in 2007. In 2012, Arkady Babchenko wrote a PEN Atlas piece on freedom of speech, media and the internet in Russia.

Further information

Award-winning journalist and free speech advocate Pavel Sheremet was also killed in Kiev on 20 July 2016 after an explosive device detonated under the car he was driving. Perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

In the last two decades seven journalists from Novaya Gazeta have been killed in direct retaliation for their work, including the investigative journalist and PEN member Anna Politkovskaya, whose murder remains unsolved.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax  +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org