31 May 2018Hot off the Press
Image credit: Valentin Ogirenko (Reuters)
Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist believed to have been killed in Ukraine’s capital Kiev on Tuesday (local time), is alive and well and revealed at a press conference that his death was staged by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
“According to information received by [SBU], the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves,” SBU head Vasyl Gritsak said, before inviting Mr Babchenko into the room, prompting audible gasps from the attending press.
Police had said Mr Babchenko was shot several times in the back, found covered in blood by his wife at their apartment and died in an ambulance en route to hospital.
Speaking to the press, Mr Babchenko apologised to his friends and family who thought he was dead, but said there was “no other way”.
“I would like to apologise for what you have all had to go through,” he said. “I’m sorry, but there was no other way of doing it. Separately, I want to apologise to my wife for the hell that she has been through.”
The ruse was apparently an effort to flush out Russian agents trying to kill the 41-year-old journalist, which SBU says resulted in the arrest of a Ukrainian citizen supposedly paid US$40,000 ($52,900) by Russian agents.
Upon hearing of Mr Babchenko’s death, many Ukrainian MPs blamed Russia for the attack which Moscow says was an orchestrated provocation.
Speaking to Interfax, Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Russian Senate, called the incident “a stage in a series of delusional actions of the Ukrainian authorities directed at Russia”, adding that he regretted that Babchenko agreed to be part of it.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Ukrainian Government was “fanning anti-Russian hysteria … we’re confident our foreign partners and the relevant international agencies will draw correct conclusions from the whole situation”.
Mr Babchenko claims he received death threats in Russia for not mourning the victims of a Russian military plane crash, and moved to Prague before settling in Kiev.
“As far as I know, this operation was in the pipeline for two months. I was let in the loop a month ago. Over this month I say the guys worked really hard. They were constantly in contact with me. We deliberated, thought things out, acted. And this covert action was the result,” he told journalists.