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‘I’m alive’: Russian reporter, Ukraine police faked killing

31 May 2018

Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Wednesday that Babchenko continued being threatened after he settled last fall in Kyiv, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station.

Vasyl Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, announced at a news conference Wednesday that the security agency and the police had solved Babchenko's slaying.

"I'm sorry, but there was no other way of doing it", Mr Babchenko said during Wednesday's conference.

He added that the Ukrainian security service had arrested the man who wanted to kill him.

Police said the Kremlin critic had died of multiple gunshots wounds to his back, with Kiev's police chief claiming Babchencko's "professional activities" as a journalist were a factor in his apparent murder.

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Mr Babchenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin and veteran war correspondent, lived in exile in Kiev.

He had been 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.

It was not clear if Babchenko's wife Olechka was aware that his death had been faked.

He fled the country in February 2017 after receiving death threats against him and his family.

Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), led the press conference, ostensibly convened to give the media details on the assassination of Babchenko.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the murder of anti-Kremlin journalist Arkady Babchenko as "very sad" and said Russia had nothing to do with it, AFP reported.

"It is anti-Russian bluster instead of talking about the need to conduct a thorough, objective investigation", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters before it was revealed that Mr Babchenko was alive and well.

"I think to be alive is good but I'm not sure that Arkady's friends tomorrow will be happy to talk with him or smile at him tomorrow".

Video shared on Twitter by Radio Free Europe's Russian service shows his ATR colleagues rejoicing in cheers and disbelief at seeing Babchenko alive.

Writing a year ago in The Guardian, Babchenko described how a Facebook post he had written about the Russian bombing of civilians in Aleppo, Syria, was deemed insufficiently patriotic and led to a systematic campaign against him. He left Russian Federation in February 2017, saying he was receiving threats and concerned he might be jailed.

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Ukrainian officials led by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman accused Russian Federation of being behind the killing of the Kremlin critic, a charge that Moscow batted back.

‘I’m alive’: Russian reporter, Ukraine police faked killing