31 May 2018 — Moon of Alabama
The Ukrainian secret service SBU claims it plotted the fake murder of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko in Kiev to uncover a real murder plot by the Russian state. That makes no sense at all.
The hoax is one of several incidents which dangerously escalate the new cold war.
As former British ambassador Craig Murray comments on the SBU’s explanation:
Craig Murray @CraigMurrayOrg –
If you believe that particular piece of Ukrainian propaganda you are even more stupid than I had already deduced. I wore a book on my head today to prevent Boris Johnson stealing my fridge. My fridge is so there, which is undoubted proof that my scheme worked and Johnson guilty.
Here is how the BBC presents the Ukrainian fairytale:
Ukrainian security chief Vasyl Hrytsak said a sting had been set up to catch hitmen paid by Russian forces.
Babchenko said he had been informed a month ago about an alleged Russian plot to kill him. He said he had agreed to co-operate with a counter-operation and had been in constant contact with Ukrainian security services over the course of the past month.
He added that he thought security services had been planning the operation for up to two months.
Mr Hrytsak said the operation had begun after Ukrainian security services were informed about a Russian plot to kill the journalist.
He alleged that Russian security forces had recruited a Ukrainian citizen to find hitmen within Ukraine. He said the citizen had approached several acquaintances, including war veterans, offering $30,000 (£22,600) for the contract killing, one of whom revealed the plot to the security services.
The story as the SBU tells it:
- the Russian secret service FSB hired a Ukrainian citizen to find someone to kill Babchenko
- the Ukrainian citizen hires a killer
- the hired killer tells the SBU about it and cooperates
- the SBU knew from him who the Ukrainian middleman of the plot was and has now arrested him
If that is the story why would the SBU stage the murder hoax? They cooperated with the hired killer and had contact or access to the man who allegedly hired him. What else was there to know to prevent the alleged plot? What is the evidence they gained?
The official reason for the murder hoax was:
detain those responsible
prove the direct involvement
of the Russian special service in the preparation of attempted murder of Mr. Babchenko.
That first part was achievable without the hoax. What about the second one? Was that achieved?
Mascha Gessen writes in the New Yorker:
Ukrainian security services claim to have proof that the middleman was hired by their Russian counterpart, the F.S.B. Babchenko offered
one piece of evidence
: the ostensible assassin, he said, had been shown a photograph of Babchenko taken twenty-five years ago, when he obtained his first internal passport (at the time, the document, a sort of universal domestic I.D., was issued three times in a Russian citizen’s life: at sixteen, twenty-five, and forty-five). Babchenko claims that the photo could be obtained only from security-service files.
Babchenko is 41 years old. There were plenty of recent Babchenko pictures on Facebook and the Russian social network Vkontakte as well as in the media. Are we to believe that Russian security services would use a picture of the sixteen year Babchenko dug up from an old passport file when a three seconds search would have found them hundreds of more recent pictures? Even this ‘Holy Babchenko’ fake is more useful to identify him than a 25 year old passport picture. The claimed ‘evidence’ makes no sense.
Babchenko is by no means a holy man. There are reasons why he is despised in Russia:
?ep?orab?e Russian @TeamTrumpRussia –
Russian opposition journalist who was “killed by Putin” Arcadiy #Babchenko mourning the death of 71 passengers of a small Russian airline domestic flight crash on February 11, 2018.
While Babchenko was “dead” a staged photo circulated that allegedly showed him killed.
Where did it come from? Is it another “White Helmets” production?
The U.S. propaganda outlet RFL/RE, seemingly miffed about the Babchenko fake, points to a U.S. connection:
The photo was first published on the Facebook page of a former Ukrainian reporter who says he now works for a shadowy consultancy organization based in the Washington, D.C., area.
Yevhen Lauer, the reporter who published the photo along with a caption reading “Damn It, Bitches,” told RFE/RL late on May 29 that
he received it from a law enforcement source
, whom he declined to identify.
Lauer, who has worked for various Ukrainian media outlets in the past, has more recently been affiliated with Trident Group LLC. Based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, the company says it specializes “in law enforcement, investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, international risk control, executive protection and special operations.”
The company’s president, Yuri Koshkin, confirmed to RFE/RL that Lauer had done work for Trident but said he knew nothing of Lauer’s involvement with the SBU sting operation to nab Babchenko’s would-be killers.
Trident Group is a small company of Washington ‘beltway bandits’ which consults U.S. companies who want to operate in the former USSR. It is run by two former Russian military officers. Does that make it “shadowy”? It says it has offices in Arlington, Moscow and Kiev. Is it involved in the hoax or does it get framed?
The story of the fake murder of Babchenko made a big wave in “western” media. In 2016 alone 14 journalists were killed in the Ukraine after their names were put on a public hit list maintained by some Ukrainian Nazi outlet. The series of murder received less attention than the recent hoax. What drives the extraordinary sensation?
On the John Batchelor Show Professor Stephen F. Cohen points (@8:00+ min) to the accumulation of defaming anti-Russian stories just before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He sees a parallel to the recent stories and the upcoming soccer Worldcup in Russia.
Russiagate, the deadly Skripal poisoning and their resurrection, the new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and functionaries, the reissuing of the old report accusing Russia for the downing of the MH17 flight over the Ukraine, the same false allegations of Russian hostility towards gays and now the Babchenko hoax all serve the same purpose. To “isolate” Russia in the global public opinion.
This is all part of the new cold war launched in 2014 by then President Obama after his failed attempt to nab the whole Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere.
Another aspect of this cold war are the upcoming large NATO maneuvers near the Russian border just in time for the Worldcup start. I plan to detail those in a future post.
Russia is, as Prof. Cohen argues, far from being isolated. Since the launch of the U.S. campaign against it Russia gained more international standing. Despite U.S. sanctions the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) was attended by some 15,000 business people and politicians from over 120 countries. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, France’s President Macron and many other high ranking personalities took part. A week before the Indian President Modi and the German Chancellor Merkel visited Putin in Sochi.
It is the Ukraine and the U.S. who are losing international support. Even the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Reporters Without Borders condemned the Babchenko hoax. The new steel and aluminum tariffs against Europe will further split the U.S. from its core allies.
The new cold war propaganda and its various hoaxes have a dangerous aspect. They make it more difficult for the parties to talk. President Trump would be harshly condemned in the cold-war media if he would hold a summit with President Putin. Small incidents, which under normal circumstances would be solved by a phone call and in a peaceful manner, can escalate when the parties don’t know and trust each other and no longer talk.
It is in everyone’s interest to avoid that.