Ukraine exposes ‘murder’ hoax
The police said Arkady Babchenko (pictured, centre), 41, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was found by his wife covered in blood in their Kiev home on Tuesday.
Babchenko had written for the liberal opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, six of whose reporters have been murdered.
It was initially reported that he was shot several times in the back and died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.
But he held a press conference with the head of Ukraine’s security services to say his death had been an elaborate plot to catch agents trying to kill him.
“According to information received by the Ukrainian security service, the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves,” said Vasyl Hrytsak of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
Babchenko entered the room to audible gasps.
He apologised to his friends and family, including his wife, who thought he was dead.
“I would like to apologise for what you have all had to go through,” the journalist said.
“Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here,” Babchenko declared. “I’m sorry for making you live through this. I’ve buried my own friends and colleagues many times myself.
“There was no other way of doing it.”
Babchenko thanked the SBU for saving his life and said another attack had been thwarted.
Ukraine and Russia routinely accuse each other of lying and fakery. In 2014 Putin annexed Crimea and fomented a conflict in eastern Ukraine, supplying weapons, tanks and undercover soldiers to anti-Kiev rebels.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman blamed Russia for Babchenko’s “death” and suggested he had been targeted because of his work. A sketch of the assassin, a bearded middle-aged man wearing a baseball cap, was released.
Babchenko said Ukraine’s SBU had learned of a “serious” plot to kill him two months ago.
“They [the SBU] showed me evidence and I understood that it was coming from Russia, probably from state security apparatus,” Babchenko explained. “They suggested I take part in a sting operation.”
The spy agency said it had intelligence about a plot to kill 30 people in Ukraine, including Babchenko, but had scuppered it.
Hrytsak said the SBU had identified a Ukrainian citizen who had been paid US$40,000 by Russian operatives to organise the killing.
Arkady Babchenko (centre) at his famous press conference. Picture credit: YouTube