The widely reported murder of a well-known Russian war reporter and Kremlin critic in Kiev was faked, the Ukrainian Security Service announced on Wednesday, as part of an attempt to foil an assassination plot against him.
Journalist Arkady Babchenko was reportedly shot three times in the back while leaving his apartment in the Ukrainian capital and died en route to the hospital. Yet Babchenko appeared alive and well at a police press conference on Wednesday, where confused reporters expected to receive updates about the "murder" investigation.
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Ukrainian security service chief Vasily Gritsak said the agency staged Babchenko’s death to catch people trying to assassinate him, The Guardian reports. Not even Babchenko's wife knew about the ruse.
"Special apologies to my wife, Olechka; there was no other option," Babchenko said. "The operation was under preparation for two months."
Gritsak said the agency had collected proof his assassination had been ordered by the Russian security services. He said they had two suspects in custody: the one who ordered the killing and the hitman who would have carried it out.
Babchenko fled Russia in 2017, writing on social media he no longer felt safe living there. USA Today reported Babchenko strongly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea in 2014, the country's backing off separatists in eastern Ukraine, and Russia's involvement in the Syrian civil war, where it backs dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Several other high-profile Russian dissidents have been murdered in Kiev over the years. The city is also the site of numerous unsolved assassinations.