On May 30, Ukraine’s National Security Service revealed that Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, whose murder had been reported a day earlier, is in fact alive and well. Babchenko apparently took part in a special operation carried out by Ukrainian intelligence agents who learned about a plot against his life. The man who allegedly planned the murder is now reportedly in police custody. Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Ukrainian National Security Agency head Vasyl Hrytsak invited Babchenko to the stage to deliver a statement. Here’s what the journalist said.
Good afternoon. I’m very sorry, but I’m going to speak Russian. Greetings.
First, I should probably apologize for putting everyone through this, because I’ve buried friends and colleagues many times, and I know the sickening, disgusting feeling when you have to bury your colleagues. I’m sorry that you were forced to go through all this, but there simply was no alternative. Separately, I’d like to apologize to my wife for putting her through hell over the past two days. Olechka, I’m sorry, but there was no other way.
Next, I’d like to thank Ukraine’s National Security Service for saving my life. I didn’t hear what Vasyl Serhiyovych [Hrytsak] just said, and I don’t know what I can say about this, but as far as I know they spent two months preparing the operation. A month ago, they brought me in on it. For a month, I got to see how these workhorses gave their all to this case. We were in touch the whole time, thinking things through and working them out. The product was this special operation, and as a result there’s now a man in custody. Or maybe he’s only been detained. I don’t know, and I won’t discuss the details now, as I don’t know them myself.
A crime was committed and we have the evidence. Most importantly, it means my life has been saved, and I want to extend my thanks once again. But most importantly, other far larger and more serious terrorist attacks have been prevented because these people were preparing something serious. When Moscow said a week ago, or maybe it was two weeks ago, that some ISIS cell was planning an attack in Kiev ahead of the UEFA Champions League, apparently I was supposed to be there, as far as I understand.
What else is there for me to tell you? As you’ve already heard, this whole case was carried out over two months, and they came to me a month ago. They told me that there was a hit out on me, and that the money had already been paid. The money, as far as I know, was $40,000. They showed me my documents, my passport information, and the photograph that only exists in my passport. I took that photo when I was 25 or something. And they showed me this photo, which only exists in my passport and at the passport office… It became clear that the information was coming from Russia, and that it was apparently coming from federal agencies, because as far as I know this information could only be obtained by the intelligence agencies and only at the passport office.
So they suggested that I take part in the special operation, but really there were no other options here: either we work, or we still work. So I agreed. Like I said, we spent a month planning this operation. The guys were real workhorses. They really gave it their all. At the same time, the other side wasn’t joking around. They gave just two weeks to carry out the hit, and then they started pushing to get it done. They apparently pushed to get it done before the Champions League. So I had to find some way out of it and come up with some excuse. So I broke my leg (I didn’t actually break it), and then I had to be somewhere else. It wasn’t supposed to happen yesterday, but yesterday is when it happened. It was just a coincidence.
Ukrainian National Security Agency head Vasyl Hrytsak: I worry that you’ll give away the whole criminal case.
Arkady Babchenko: Alright, that’s all. Put simply, this whole thing ended yesterday. Half of it is already done. I’ve done my job, I’m still alive, and I’m not going anywhere. Thank you.