RUSSIAN journalist Arkady Babchenko sent shock waves around the world when he turned up at a news conference in Ukraine – 24 hours after police reported he was shot dead in the capital Kiev.
Let’s examine what happened and why Babchenko may have faked his own death…
Who is Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko?
Babchenko, 41, is one of Russia’s best-known war reporters but fled the country in February 2017 after receiving death threats.
The dad-of-seven fled Russia in 2017 after writing about the crash of a Russian military passenger jet in which 92 people died.
The journalist claimed his home address was published online and he received threats by phone, email and social media.
He has been openly critical of Russian policies including Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
When was Arkady Babchenko ‘murdered’ and why?
Authorities said they suspected he was killed in his home in Kiev because of his work.
But on May 30, Vasyl Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, announced his agency had solved the case.
He startled everyone by inviting the reporter into the room, explaining they faked his death to foil a plot to kill him.
Intelligence chiefs in Kiev say a Ukrainian assassin known only as “G” was paid $40,000 by Russian spies to kill Babchenko.
Ukranian security officials withheld exactly how the two suspects were snared by the fake death sting and did not give precise details of their alleged ties to Moscow.
What happened at the press conference?
To the applause and gasps of the press, Babchenko took the floor and apologised to the friends and family who were unaware of the plan, adding: “I’m still alive.”
Gritsak said investigators found a Ukrainian citizen who was recruited and paid $40,000 (£30,000) by the Russian security service to organise the hit.
The head of Ukraine’s security service, Vasyl Hrytsak, said the citizen had approached several acquaintances, offering $30,000 (£22,600) for the killing, one of whom revealed the plot to the security services.
The unidentified man then hired an acquaintance who had fought in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine as the gunman.
Both were arrested on the verge of carrying out the murder, Ukraine said.
Babchenko, who was not able to tell his wife or friends about his faked death, said: “Apologies to my wife, Olechka. I’m sorry, but there were no other options.
“The operation was being prepared for two months. They told me a month ago. As the result of the operation, a man is taken, he is in custody.”
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What was said about the attack?
The authorities in Ukraine were heavily criticised for faking the murder of a Russian dissident journalist in Kiev.
An official from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Ukraine was spreading “false information”.
Reporters Without Borders said it was “part of an information war”.
Harlem Desir, the OSCE’s representative on the freedom of the media, said: “I deplore the decision to spread false information on the life of a journalist. It is the duty of the state to provide correct information to the public.”
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the Ukrainian operation as “a masquerade” done for “propagandistic effect”.
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