Arkady Babchenko, the anti-Kremlin Russian journalist who was reported to have been killed in Kiev, appeared alive at a press conference.
Delivering a shock to the world which bitterly criticised Russia and President Vladimir Putin all through Wednesday over Babchenko’s purported killing, the head of Ukraine’s security service Vasyl Grytsak told reporters that Tuesday’s faked death was part of a “special operation” to pre-empt a real plot to kill him.
Max Seddon, Moscow correspondent of the Financial Times, took to Twitter to express the collective shock of journalists such as him.
“So Arkady Babchenko, the Russian dissident reporter who was murdered yesterday, is… not dead. Ukrainian secret services just paraded him before the cameras on life TV. It was a setup. Dear God,” he wrote.
“Turns out not even Babchenko’s own wife – to say nothing of his six adopted children – knew about it. “Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here,” Babchenko says. “I’m sorry for making you live through this. I’ve buried my own friends and colleagues many times myself.”,” added Seddon in a second tweet.
Reuters correspondent Polina Ivanova, too, took to Twitter to announce Babchenko’s return. She wrote that the journalist smirked on live TV and told the reporters present, “I did my bit of the job. I’m still alive. Didn’t give you the satisfaction.”
Quoting another source, Ivanova wrote that those plotting to kill Babchenko have been arrested.
Babchenko, who was working for the Ukrainian TV channel ATR, was reported to have been killed in Kiev on Tuesday.
Ukrainian lawmaker Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that Babchenko was shot in the back on the stairwell of his house and died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Kiev police chief Andriy Kryschenko had told local media that Babchenko’s professional activities as a journalist would be examined in the investigation to seek the motive of the murderer.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had claimed Russia was responsible for the death of Arkady Babchenko, 41, who was reportedly shot multiple times outside his home in Kiev on Tuesday evening and died before he got to the hospital.
“I am certain that the Russian totalitarian machine could not accept his honesty and principles. He was a true friend of Ukraine who told the world the truth about Russian aggression,” Groysman had said on Facebook.
However, Russian Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov told Interfax that the accusations were “stupid” and said that Ukrainian authorities were “delirious and deliberately trying to provoke Moscow”.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “We demand that the Ukrainian authorities make every effort to promptly investigate.”
“Bloody crimes and total impunity had become routine for the Kiev regime”, it said, while offering condolences to Babchenko’s family and friends.
A spokesperson from the European Union’s diplomatic service (EEAS) said an investigation into Babchenko’s death had to be launched so that those responsible could be made accountable.
Babchenko, 41, worked as a war correspondent in Moskovsky Komsomolets and several other Moscow-based media.
He had grown highly critical of the Russian government in recent years. He criticised Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for the separatists of southeast Ukraine. He left Russia in February 2017, writing that it was “a country I no longer feel safe in”. He moved to Prague and in August, settled in Kiev.
The Russian journalist is known as the author of several books on military themes, which have been translated into 16 languages.