On Tuesday, the news spread quickly: Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko had been shot three times just outside his apartment in Kiev, as he went out to buy bread. His wife had been in the bathroom; when she rushed out at the sound of gunshots, she found her husband bleeding to death. He died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. On Facebook, Ukraine’s prime minister blamed Russia.
No one had trouble believing this story; no one even considered questioning it. It was gruesomely familiar, similar to the many horrifying stories we’d already heard from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries where journalists are killed for their reporting.
The examples that sprang first to my mind were the 2006 assassination of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, shot four times after she entered her Moscow apartment building, her groceries in hand; and the 2016 murder of Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian journalist killed by a car bomb in central Kiev. The masterminds behind Politkovskaya’s murder were never identified, but it was revealed that she had been under surveillance by the FSB, the Russian security service, for at least two months before her murder.
The Ukrainian government still hasn’t arrested or prosecuted anyone for Sheremet’s assassination, but investigative journalists discovered that an agent of the SBU, Ukraine’s security service, had been sitting outside Sheremet’s building the night the bomb was planted on his car.
Ukraine blamed Russia, predictably, for Sheremet’s death, but some Ukrainians suspected a cover-up. Despite the rift in Russian-Ukrainian relations in recent years, the two countries often behave in strikingly similar ways.