The Oslo Freedom Forum is now taking place here in Norway. Earlier this year, there was a Freedom Forum event in New York, devoted to Russia. It was called “PutinCon.” I wrote a little about it here. One of the speakers on that occasion was Arkady Babchenko, an incredibly brave Russian journalist. Moscow-born, he served in the army, fighting in the Chechen wars. Then he embarked on his career as an investigative journalist. He fled his country last year, living in Prague, Israel, and Kiev. Addressing us in New York, he said that he had fled “after being afraid for years that they would arrest me, that they would find me at my building’s door and beat me in the head. I was afraid that they would come for me.”
They came for him at his apartment in Kiev yesterday. They shot him in the back three times as his wife was in the bathroom. He died at 41.
The chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, the organization behind the Oslo Freedom Forum, is Garry Kasparov, the onetime chess champion who became a human-rights champion. In a statement, he said, “Arkady Babchenko’s murder is a cowardly act by those threatened by the truths he told. . . . Arkady persisted in telling the truth because he believed in a free, democratic, and humane Russia.”
One by one, they are killed — not just journalists, but any critic of the Putin regime. Why do they keep criticizing, knowing the danger? Love of country, no doubt. And love of truth. A compulsion to tell it. Russia is lucky to have such men as Arkady Babchenko, and so is the world (whether we know it or not).