'Murdered' Russian Journalist Arkady Babchenko Turns Up at Press Conference

Sergei Bobylev  TASS

"Murdered" anti-Kremlin journalist Arkady Babchenko appeared alive and well at a press conference in Kiev on Wednesday as Ukraine admitted it had faked his death to expose an alleged Russian plot to kill him. He was denounced by pro-government politicians in Russia over comments on social media about the Russian bombing of Aleppo in Syria's war, and over his characterisation of Russia as an aggressor towards Ukraine.

"This is the height of cynicism against the backdrop of such a brutal murder, it is anti-Russian bluster instead of talking about the need to conduct a thorough, objective investigation", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. "I'm sorry you had to go through this but there was no other way".

Harlem Desir, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Representative on Freedom of the Media, said he was on his way to Kiev to meet the Babchenko's colleagues on Wednesday as a slew of Western foreign ministers condemned the killing.

The next day, however, Babchenko appeared alive and well at a police press conference, revealing that his death had been faked in order to uncover an assassination plot against him.

He said: "Four years ago General Kulchitsky wouldn't take me on his helicopter because there wasn't the space".

Babchenko surprised reporters at the press conference, and worldwide, when he walked in to the room after Gritsak announced the security service had solved his murder.

"I know that sickening feeling when you bury a colleague", he added.

Ukrainian security officials said two people were apprehended as a result of the sting: a Ukrainian man allegedly paid by Russian Federation to facilitate the foiled assassination, and the thwarted gunman himself.

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The Kremlin described such allegations as part of an anti-Russian smear campaign. The Ukrainian man also was supposed to procure large quantities of weapons and explosives, including 300 AK-47 rifles and "hundreds of kilos of explosives", to perpetrate acts of terror in Ukraine, he said.

The SBU said it had received information about the plot and had managed to prevent it.

Reporters Without Borders director Christophe Deloire tweeted his "deepest indignation at the discovery of the manipulation of the Ukrainian secret services. That's really helpful to all who care about journalists' safety".

Mr Babchenko, a Putin critic, has lived in the Ukrainian capital since receiving threats at home for saying he did not mourn the victims of a Russian military plane crash.

Babchenko fled Russian Federation in 2017, writing on social media he no longer felt safe living there.

The former soldier criticised Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the Russian president's support for separatists in southeast Ukraine.

Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Babchenko continued being threatened after he settled last fall in Kiev, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station. He then he became a war reporter for several Russian newspapers.

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