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Slovyansk, Ukraine checkpoint
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Checkpoint at Slovyansk, Ukraine. Ben Robinson

Babchenko Changes Nothing

Integrity Initiative: Opinion Piece

“Why do so many of us still believe that there can be another way?”

That is the question Kateryna Kruk, who stood on Maidan and witnessed the Moscow-backed violence against peaceful protesters, asks in response to foreign criticism of Ukraine’s operation to save Arkadi Babchenko.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Alive. 

It’s understandable that grief over what looked like the latest Kremlin murder of a critic turned to relief mixed with anger at Ukraine’s deception. However, it’s disturbing to see so many people who are fully aware of the nature of Putin’s regime claiming that the Babchenko operation somehow helps the Kremlin in its constant stream of lies and denials.

The Kremlin lied about: Crimea, invading Ukraine, MH17, bombing Syrian hospitals, Assad using chemical weapons against civilians, Sergei Skripal – the list goes on. And it is still lying about them.

Under Putin, Russian journalists, activists and politicians who stand in the way of his regime are harassed, arrested, jailed and murdered – even if they leave Russia in fear for their lives. Each time the Kremlin commits a foul act, it demands evidence, then distorts and rejects the evidence that is presented. Each time the Kremlin uses its previous lies, denials and claims of ‘Russophobia’ to back up its current lies and denials.

Babchenko changes nothing in terms of the Kremlin’s perception and actions. The regime and its propaganda workers (hiding behind the façade of journalism) have always lied and denied. The facts don’t matter to them.

The West is "only" experiencing the Kremlin's infowar. Ukraine is experiencing the real thing, facing tanks and artillery supplied by the Kremlin. Ukraine saved the life of a Russian journalist who revealed the truth about Putin’s actions and who fled Russia in fear of his life. It revealed its sting operation the very next day. The deception continued only as long as necessary to catch the Moscow-ordered killers.

We must not let the Kremlin define the shape of this information war. The Kremlin and its propaganda outlets are claiming vindication now. So what is different from before? No right-thinking person should give their claims any credence whatsoever. Do we now say the Kremlin was right to dismiss the masses of evidence of its bombing of Syrian hospitals, its shelling of Ukrainian forces across the border, its murder of 298 innocent people on MH17? Any ideological extremist or conspiracy theorist who had already chosen to believe the Kremlin’s disinformation over reputable Western media was unlikely to ever change their mind.

The only thing that has changed is that the Kremlin can now cite reputable Western journalists, analysts and rights organizations as agreeing with it.

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