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Ukraine fakes death of anti-Kremlin journalist!

KIEV: Ukraine admitted today 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 told reporters 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.

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 told reporters. “This fashion of conducting international affairs is very sad.” 

The head of Ukraine’s security service Vasyl Grytsak –  showing a video of the arrest –   told reporters that the man allegedly paid to organize Banchenko’s killing was detained today.

Gritsak said killing Babchenko was part of a larger alleged plot by Russian security services. The Ukrainian man was also 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.

Within 24 hours after police reported he had been gunned down at his Kiev flat, Babchenko turned up at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital. “I would like to apologize for what you have all had to go through,” Babchenko told reporters at a press conference. The 41-year-old, who fought with the Russian army in Chechnya in the 1990s and went on to cover conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia and Ukraine, had previously faced a campaign of harassment over his reporting. A contributor to media outlets including top Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, he regularly accused Russian authorities of hunting down Kremlin critics and unleashing wars in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.

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Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders condemned the staging of the murder as a “pathetic stunt”. Christophe Deloire, the head of the Paris-based media watchdog, told Media that while he was relieved that Arkady Babchenko was alive, “it is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive… for the stunt”.

Deloire insisted the fake set-up “would not help the cause of press freedom. All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations,” he said, referring to the killings of a number of the Kremlin’s critics in Ukraine in recent years. “It is the state lying, even if it was brief,” he added.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.