Babchenko faked death could boost Russia's denial of fake news, says expert

Babchenko faked death could boost Russia's denial of fake news, says expert

Arkady Babchenko at the press conference where he revealed he was still alive. Image: Getty

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Arkady Babchenko, the Russian journalist who took part in a Ukranian plot to fake his own death, could give Russia leverage in claiming critics of the Putin regime are peddling fake news.

Babchenko appeared at a press conference in Kiev yesterday 24 hours after he’d been reportedly shot, with Ukraine’s security services saying Mr Babchenko's death was faked in order to foil a plot to take his life.

Vasyl Gritsak, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, announced at a news conference that the security agency and the police had solved Mr Babchenko's killing. He then startled everyone present by inviting the 41-year-old reporter into the room.

To the applause and gasps of the press, Mr Babchenko took the floor and apologised to the friends and family who mourned for him who were unaware of the plan.

"I'm still alive," he said.

Listen to Rafaello Pantucci on the talkRADIO breakfast show above

Before ushering Mr Babchenko into the room, Mr Gritsak said investigators had identified a Ukrainian citizen who had been recruited and paid 40,000 dollars (£30,000) by Russian security services to organise and carry out the killing.

Rafaello Pantucci, a foreign policy researcher and director at the International Security Studies group, told talkRADIO that the plot could allow Russia to “push back on the fake news narrative”.

“[There are stories of] Russia manipulating the news, and they’re saying, ‘here is a prime example of someone else fabricating the news’,” he said.

“I think it’s going to have an effect, in the medium term at least, on the broader narrative we have.

“For example, when the Skripal affair here in the UK took place. The British government was very firm about saying where they apportioned the blame and who they thought was responsible, but the Russian response was ‘none of this is true, it was all fake news’.

“Now they can say proudly and easily that this was a clear example of manufactured fake news, because Ukrainians are fabricating journalist’s deaths.

“It does, to some degree, undermine the general trust in the media and the public space and discourse.”

Russia has been accused of fabricating news previously when it claimed chemical attacks in Syria were staged, and that the Syrian rescue group the White Helmets was linked to terrorist organisations.

An investigation is also ongoing in the US over Russia’s tampering with the US election.