Update: The Ukrainian secret police has reported that Arkady is alive and this was part of an operation to uncover a web of agents operating sub rosa in Ukraine. Even his wife and daughter were not informed of the operation and had to bear the horror of this announcement. Arrests have been made. This story is a reminder of the kind of perilous life experience of individuals such as Arkady who choose to stand up to authoritarianism.
KIEV (May 29, 2018) — Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was assassinated earlier today at his apartment in Kiev, Ukraine. Babchenko spoke at HRF's PutinCon in New York last march and said he "eventually escaped from Russia after being afraid for years that they would arrest me, that they would find me at my building's door and beat me in the head; I was afraid that they would come for me."
"Arkady Babchenko's murder is a cowardly act by those threatened by the truths he told about the brutality of the Russian armed forces, and the crimes against humanity committed by Vladimir Putin in Chechnya," said Garry Kasparov, chairman of HRF. "As a veteran of the Russian armed forces, Arkady had both the lived experience and the moral authority to make factual assertions about the Putin regime's many crimes. Arkady persisted in telling the truth because he believed in a free, democratic, and humane Russia."
Babchenko's wife heard bangs from the bathroom of their home in Kiev and came out to find Babchenko on the floor. He had been shot three times in the back. Babchenko died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Babchenko was born in Moscow in 1977. In 1995, he was a law student when he joined the Russian army and was sent to Chechnya. Babchenko fought in the first Chechen war for two years at the age of 18, and volunteered for six months during the second Chechen war. He became an investigative journalist and wrote the 2009 book One Soldier's War, where he documented the war crimes committed by Russian troops during the Chechen wars. Babchenko was also the creator of the project "Journalism without Intermediaries," which aims to make journalists more independent and capable of avoiding censorship by editors or publishers.
"I last saw Arkady in March in New York. This murder aims to terrorize those who speak out against Putin. In honor of Arkady Babchenko’s legacy of courage and truth-telling the Human Rights Foundation is committing to host a new event before the end of 2018. It will be the 'Arkady Babchenko PutinCon' and we will hold it in Berlin, Germany," said Kasparov.
Babchenko's March 16, 2018 talk at PutinCon is in Russian and English. Putincon was a gathering of experts shed light on the darkest facets of Putin's past, present, and future.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.