• Press Release

Ukraine: Murder of Kremlin critic exposes failures to protect freedom of expression

UPDATE 30/05/18: It emerged after the publication of this article that Arkadiy Babchenko is alive - his death was faked by the Ukrainian Security Service.

However, Amnesty International's concerns about the safety of journalists and activists in Ukraine remain real, with past killings and attacks still unresolved. We call for justice in all cases.

 

The killing of an exiled Russian journalist and prominent Kremlin critic in Kyiv last night is a chilling reminder of the deadly risks faced by Russia’s critics and their serious impact on freedom of expression in Ukraine, Amnesty International said.

Arkadiy Babchenko, an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russia’s policies in Syria and Ukraine, was shot dead on the doorstep of his apartment as he returned home from grocery shopping, according to preliminary police reports.

“The abhorrent murder of Arkadiy Babchenko must not go without consequence. The Ukrainian authorities should leave no stone unturned until the perpetrator of this crime is identified and brought to justice,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine’s Director.

The abhorrent murder of Arkadiy Babchenko must not go without consequence
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

“The Ukrainian government is obliged to protect journalists and activists who may be at risk. We need to know who committed this crime, and who is behind other similar assassinations in Ukraine.”

Babchenko left Russia in February 2017 out of fear of politically motivated persecution. After briefly resettling in the Czech Republic, he moved to Kyiv where he had been hosting a show on the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR that was expelled from Crimea soon after the Russian occupation of the peninsula.

A former Russian soldier who had fought in the Chechen Wars of 1996-1998 and 2000, he rose to literary prominence after the publication of his book ‘One Soldier's War’ in 2006. While in Russia, Babchenko worked as the war correspondent for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

His death follows the killings of journalists Oles Buzina in 2015 and Pavel Sheremet in 2016 in the Ukrainian capital.

“Arkadiy Babchenko’s killing is the latest in a series of deadly attacks in Kyiv on journalists critical of the authorities in Russia and Ukraine,” said Oksana Pokalchuk.

“The perpetrators of these attacks have still not been identified, let alone brought to justice. This latest murder increases concerns about the Ukrainian authorities’ ability and willingness to protect journalists, activists and other vulnerable groups, and to ensure freedom of expression.”

The Ukrainian government is obliged to protect journalists and activists who may be at risk. We need to know who committed this crime, and who is behind other similar assassinations in Ukraine
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian journalist, TV host and Kremlin critic, was killed by a car bomb on 20 July 2016.

Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina, who was widely known for his criticism of the Ukrainian authorities, was gunned down by masked assailants in a drive-by shooting on 16 April 2015.

There has also been a string of violent attacks by far-right groups against LGBTI, women rights and other activists across Ukraine in recent months. These attacks, similarly to killings of journalists, have not been effectively investigated.