May 31, 2018
His Excellency Petro Poroshenko
President of Ukraine
Bankova st, 11
Dear President Poroshenko,
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, like our colleagues around the world, were relieved to learn that Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko is alive and well, following the devastating news the day before that he had been murdered in Kiev.
At the same time, we are concerned about the possible implications for press freedom of the Ukrainian Security Service’s (SBU) actions that were allegedly necessary to save Babchenko’s life. The staging of his murder could undermine confidence in the work of journalists and temper public outrage when they are killed. For this reason, we believe it is imperative that you and your government urgently provide answers to several critical questions, including:
- How imminent and credible was the alleged threat to Babchenko’s life?
- What evidence does the SBU have that the Russian security service orchestrated the alleged assassination plot?
- What evidence does Ukraine have against the alleged organizer and alleged contract killer?
- Who is the alleged mastermind of the plot?
- Are the identities of the other 30 Russians allegedly targeted for assassination known to the Ukrainian authorities? What, if any, measures, have been taken to protect them?
- Who in the Ukrainian government was aware of the operation?
- Is the alleged hitman–who according to local press reports, has identified himself as Aleksei Tsymbalyuk, an activist with Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist group Right Sector–in custody? What is his status in the investigation?
- Why did the SBU need to go to the extreme measure of announcing Babchenko’s murder in order to stop the alleged plot and arrest the alleged organizer?
- Why did authorities publicly blame the Russian security services for the alleged assassination plot prior to completing an investigation and charging the suspected plotters?
At a press conference today in the presence of security officials, Babchenko said he was not privy to much evidence of the alleged threat to his life–other than a dossier of his personal information that allegedly was sent to the killers by the supposed Russian mastermind. Babchenko said he agreed to take part in the SBU-led operation because he believed the authorities and “he couldn’t do otherwise.” We believe it is vitally important that Babchenko be allowed to freely conduct interviews with journalists.
Mr. President, as you stated you were fully informed of the SBU-led operation and congratulated the agency on its success, we believe that you are best placed to address the many outstanding questions. We urge you to hold a press conference as soon as possible with all the relevant Ukrainian officials to address the questions above and all others that arise.
We also call on you, Mr. President, to ensure that any trial of the alleged organizer in the plot to kill Babchenko is open to the public. For the sake of the credibility of the prosecution and of the Ukrainian government in general, it is imperative that the entire process be as open and transparent as possible.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.