Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who had been reported shot and killed in the Ukrainian capital, has shown up at a news conference very much alive.
Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, said the agency faked Babchenko’s death to catch those who are trying to kill him.
Kiev and national police had said Babchenko, a strong critic of the Kremlin, was shot multiple times in the back at his apartment building and found bleeding by his wife.
Police claimed the would-be assassin has now been seized as a result of the operation, having been ordered to execute experienced war reporter Babchenko for $70,000.
The bizarre scenes were a shock to everyone – including Babchenko’s wife, who received an apology from her husband for faking his own death.
At a news conference in Kiev, Babchenko told a stunned media: “Special apologies to my wife, Olechka. I am sorry, but there were no options here.
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“The operation took two months to prepare. I was told a month ago. As a result of the operation, one person has been captured.”
His elaborate plan did not, it would seem, go down too well with his colleagues either, who had mourned Babchenko and felt ‘down and out’ about his apparent death.
Simon Otrovsky, a journalist who worked alongside Babchenko, tweeted on Wednesday: “While I am very happy Arkady is alive I am also angry and confused because my fellow reporters and I spent yesterday posting and reading memories we shared of him and feeling very down and out.”
He added: “This was apparently some kind of sting operation. I hope it was worth it.”
Babchenko told the news conference he had previously fled Russia after receiving death threats.
He said his home address was published online and the threats he received were made by phone, email and social media.
Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Babchenko continued to be threatened after he settled last year in Kiev, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station.
Babchenko did not take the intimidation too seriously, according to Ponomarev.
Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine were topics on which the journalist was scathingly critical of the Kremlin.