1. On May 29, Ukrainian media reported that Arkadiy Babchenko, a Russian citizen and journalist living in Ukraine, had been killed in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
The Ukrainain government and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) immediately accused Russia of being behind the attack. The mainstream media and international organizations joined the coverage of the incident blaming Russia for the killing.
2. On May 30, Babchenko appeared to be alive and showed up at a press conference along with SBU Chief Sergey Gritsak and Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko. Gritsak claimed that the death of Babchenko had been staged in order to trace an organizer of the crime.
The SBU once again accused Russia of being behind the alleged attempt to kill Babcheno.
According to the initial SBU version.
- The organizer [identified as “G”] is detained;
- The hitman [identified as “C”] hired by the organier contacted the SBU to reval the crime;
- Russian intelligence recruited “G” in order to carry out a series of killing in Ukraine: 30 people including Babchenko. The organizer received 40,000 USD from Russian intelligence in order to empoy this plan.
3. On May 31, it appeared that the detained “organizer” is Boris German. The SBU claims German was supposedly working on behalf of Russian intelligence. He is an executive chief of the Ukrainian-German weaponry company “Schmeisser” and is also known as a strong supporter of Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine.
German and his advocate say that German was working on behalf of the SBU in the famework of some counter-intelligence operation.
A Ukrainain conflict veteran, a member of the Right Sector radical group, Alexey Tsymbalyuk was “hired” as the hitman to kill Babchenko. Tsymbalyuk also claims that he was working on behalf of the SBU. The SBU initially denied, but then confirmed this.
According to initial claims by German:
- German was contacted by a representative of the SBU to participate in some counter-intelligence operation. He received money for organizing the fake killing of Babchenko from the SBU and game them to Tsymbalyuk. Then he was detained.
Later German updated his version:
- According to this variant of the story, he started cooperating with the SBU after he was approached by an “old acquaintance” living in Moscow who “works at a Putin foundation, organizing unrest in Ukraine.” German was allegedly told to learn more about the flow of Russian money into Ukraine funding certain politicians and “terrorist groups.”
- According to Ukrainian media, German says his “old acquaintance” is named either Vyacheslav Pivovarkin or Vyacheslav Pivovarnik. However, it remains unclear if German accuses him of ordering Babchenko’s murder. However, this Pivovarkin (Pivovarnik) is also a citizen of Ukraine.
Citing sources in law-enforcement agencies, Strana.ua said that the SBU has no clear evidence confirming the SBU’s claims the “organizer” of the event, German, was contacting with Russian intelligence. According to Strana.ua, papers of the case include no info about “Russian intelligence” inolved in the incident.
Strana.ua’s report appears to be credible because earlier (prior to the official revelation of the organizer’s identity), the news website revealed that the suspect is a businessman working in field of weapons deliveries to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. German is clearly such a businessman.
4. Late on May 31, a Kiev district court German under arrest for allegedly organizing the attempted murder of Babchenko.
5. The international and local media as well as international organizations are in rage over the faked death of Babchenko. The mainstream media attempted to justify actions of the SBU, but this hardly helps.
Relieved that Arkadiy #Babchenko is alive! I deplore the decision to spread false information on the life of a journalist. It is the duty of the state to provide correct information to the public.
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) 30 May 2018
RSF expresses its deepest indignation after discovering the manipulation of the Ukrainian secret services, this new step of a war of information. It is always very dangerous for a government to play with the facts, especially using journalists for their fake stories. https://t.co/XwwbepYsjc
— Christophe Deloire (@chrisdeloire) 30 May 2018
6. At the first stage of the story, the methods used by the SBU looked similar to those used by UK special services in the Skripals case. However, after the appearence of Babchenko at the press conference and first statements by the “organizer” and the “hitman” inolved the SBU’s claims about some “Russian intelligence” involved look unreliable.
- All the persons involved, including German’s “contact in Moscow” are Ukrainian citizens;
- The “killed” journalist, the “organizer” and the “hitman” were working or claiming to work on behalf of the SBU;
- The SBU has no decisive evidence to confirm the alleged Russian involvement.
However, all these facts do not mean that the Ukrainian government and its supporters will abandon their attempts to accuse Russia of the attempt to kill Babchenko.