It’s not a happy time for Ukrainian journalists when they have to argue whether they are being targeted by Ukrainian or Russian special services. And that is exactly what they were forced to do earlier this week. This has been perhaps the strangest sequence of events in a long time — even by Ukrainian standards.
First, the Russian opposition journalist Arkady Babchenko was reported murdered in Kyiv on May 29 — only to turn up alive on the next day to reveal it was all a sting operation to arrest the alleged murderer hired by Russia.
It got even stranger the next day when the Security Service or SBU revealed it obtained in the operation a list of Russia’s potential targets.
The SBU was very secretive about the namest, which of course meant they were leaked to the press within days. The list had 47 names, most of them journalists, but also activists, bloggers and even an author of children’s books.
The peculiar “hit list” showed how little trust journalists have in their own security service — many, including some people targeted, doubted the genuineness of the list and the SBU’s intentions. Was it an attempt to intimidate journalists ahead of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary election campaigns? It’s easy to understand such distrust. The SBU has been the target of journalists investigating corruption many times — as was the agency’s boss, President Petro Poroshenko.
Not only does proclaiming a journalist a worthy target puts them in danger. Paired with the Babchenko case it makes them acutely aware that they are dependent on the SBU — which can save their lives, or so it says.
Will it change the way journalists are covering the SBU, or those influencing it among top officials? It may for some.
We have a feeling that this is only the first one of the strange affairs that will occur in the run-up to the March 2019 presidential election.