Sunday 19 August 2018

'I'm alive' - Russian journalist faked death to foil assassination plot

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered, attends a news briefing by the Ukrainian state security service in Kiev REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was reported murdered, attends a news briefing by the Ukrainian state security service in Kiev REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Ukrainian police officers guard in the entrance to a house where Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was "fatally shot" Photo: REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko has turned up at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital less than 24 hours after police reported he had been shot and killed at his Kiev apartment building.

The country's security services said Mr Babchenko's death was faked in order to foil a plot to take his life.

Ukrainian police said Mr Babchenko, a strong critic of the Kremlin, was shot multiple times in the back on Tuesday and found bleeding there by his wife. Authorities said they suspected he was killed because of his work.

Vasyl Gritsak, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, announced at a news conference that the security agency and the police had solved Mr Babchenko's killing. He then startled everyone present by inviting the 41-year-old reporter into the room.

To the applause and gasps of the press, Mr Babchenko took the floor and apologised to the friends and family who mourned for him who were unaware of the plan.

"I'm still alive," he said.

Before ushering Mr Babchenko into the room, Mr Gritsak said investigators had identified a Ukrainian citizen who had been recruited and paid $40,000 (€34,000) by Russian security services to organise and carry out the killing.

The unidentified Ukrainian man in turn hired an acquaintance who had fought in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine as the gunman.

Mr Babchenko, one of Russia's best-known war reporters, fled the country in February 2017 after receiving death threats. He said he had left the country because threats had been made against him and his family.

He said his home address was published online and the threats he received were made by phone, email and social media.

Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Mr Babchenko continued to be threatened after he settled last year in Kiev, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station. Mr Babchenko did not take the intimidation too seriously, according to Ponomarev.

Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine were topics on which the journalist was scathingly critical of the Kremlin.

Press Association

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