'Murdered' Russian journalist shows up alive at conference

A Russian journalist who was reported murdered in Kiev dramatically reappeared alive in the middle of a briefing about his own killing by the Ukrainian state security service.

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (C), the head of Ukraine's security service Vasyl Grytsak (L) and the Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko (R) attend a press conference at the Ukrainian Security Service headquarters in Kiev on May 30, 2018. 

A Russian journalist who was reported murdered in Kiev dramatically reappeared alive on Wednesday in the middle of a briefing about his own killing by the Ukrainian state security service.

Ukrainian authorities had said on Tuesday that Arkady Babchenko, 41, had been shot dead at his flat and that his wife had found him in a pool of blood.

His reported murder had triggered a war of words between Ukraine and Russia and sent shivers through the journalistic communities in both countries.

But on Wednesday, an emotional Babchenko appeared before reporters saying he had been part of a special Ukrainian operation to thwart an attempt on his life and said he was fine.

“I would like to apologize for what you have all had to go through,” Babchenko, who looked on the verge of tears at times, told reporters.

“I’m sorry, but there was no other way of doing it. Separately, I want to apologize to my wife for the Hell that she has been through.”

Babchenko’s reappearance elicited gasps, then cheers and applause from journalists at the briefing.

He went on to thank the Ukrainian Security Service, the SBU, for saving his life and said the most important thing was that what he called other big acts of terror had been thwarted. He did not specify what those planned acts were.

“Everything is over from yesterday,” Babchenko said.

“I did my job, and I’m still alive.”

Before ushering Babchenko into the room, SBU chief Vasyl Gritsak said investigators had identified a Ukrainian citizen who had been recruited and paid US$40,000 by the Russian security service to organize and carry out the killing. The unidentified Ukrainian man in turn hired an acquaintance as the gunman.

Moscow described such allegations as part of an anti-Russian smear campaign.

“This is the height of cynicism against the backdrop of such a brutal murder. 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 Babchenko was alive and well.

Peskov said Ukraine is becoming a “dangerous place for journalists to work in” and called on Ukrainian authorities to take effective measures to rectify the situation.

Babchenko had worked as a war correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, Moskovsky Komsomolets and several other Moscow-based media and had written a book about his war experiences. He moved from Moscow to Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, in February 2017, citing unspecified threats.

In August 2017, Babchenko moved to Kiev.

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