'Murdered' anti-Putin scribe is alive

May 31, 2018, 08:23 IST | Agencies

Ukraine reveals it staged 'murder' of Russian journalist as part of probe into threats against his life

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (right) with Vasyl Grytsak, the head of Ukraine's security service at the news conference. Pic/AFP
Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (right) with Vasyl Grytsak, the head of Ukraine's security service at the news conference. Pic/AFP

Ukraine admitted yesterday it had staged the murder of anti-Kremlin journalist Arkady Babchenko in order to foil an attempt on his life by Russia, a stunning development in a case that had attracted global headlines. Less than 24 hours after it was reported that Babchenko had died from three gunshots to the back in the stairwell of his apartment building in an apparent contract-style killing, he appeared alive and well at a press conference in Kiev. The head of Ukraine's security service Vasyl Grytsak said that his death was faked as part of a "special operation" to pre-empt a real plot to kill him. "Thanks to this operation we were able to foil a cynical plot and document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime," Grytsak added.

The blame game
News of the "death" of the prominent Russian war correspondent and former soldier set off a series of recriminations between Kiev and Moscow, and pictures and flowers had been laid by mourners at the Russian embassy in Kiev. Ukrainian officials led by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had accused Russia of being behind the killing of the Kremlin critic, a charge that Moscow batted back. "The Ukrainian prime minister is already talking about how it was done by Russian secret services," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. "This fashion of conducting international affairs is very sad."

Death threats
A number of Kremlin critics have been killed in Ukraine in recent years, with one gunned down on a Kiev street in broad daylight and another whose car exploded. Babchenko, 41, fought in Russia's two Chechen campaigns in the 1990s and early 2000s before becoming a war correspondent and author. He repeatedly said he faced death threats.
Babchenko left Russia in February 2017 after receiving threats, living first in the Czech Republic, then in Israel, before moving to Kiev.

Kremlin critic freed after Spain arrest
Financier Bill Browder, a high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been briefly arrested in Spain on a Russian arrest warrant. After an hour in custody he was released because the warrant was no longer valid, Spanish police said.

Other Kremlin critics killed in recent years
> Pavel Sheremet, a dual Russian and Belarusian citizen, died when his car exploded in Kiev in 2016.
> Another car bomb killed Ukrainian military intelligence officer Col Maxim Shapoval in June 2017.
> Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker who went into exile in Ukraine, was gunned down in Kiev last year.

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