United with Israel
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While Ukrainian police announced on Tuesday that Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was shot dead in Kiev, where he fled into exile following threats on his life, Ukraine admitted on Wednesday the murder was staged to thwart assassination attempts. Babchenko was a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, which some maintained was the reason he feared for his life.
Shortly after the murder was initially revealed, Kiev announced it had arrested a man suspected of preparing to kill the journalist.
Less than 24 hours after the murder was reported, however, Babchenko appeared very much alive at a press conference in Kiev.
“He had many enemies both in Russia and Ukraine; there is no doubt that he was killed for his articles,” said Tanya Lokshina, a Russia program director of Moscow Human Rights Watch, in an interview with The Daily Beast after it was reported that Babchenko, 41, had been killed due to his professional activities.
Last year Babchenko had to leave Russia. “Some Moscow source whom he trusted informed him that Russian authorities were planning to lock him up,” Babchenko’s friend, the Prague-based photographer Petr Shelomovsky, told The Daily Beast.
On Wednesday, the head of Ukraine’s security service Vasyl Grytsak announced that Babchenko’s death was faked in a “special operation” to head off real attempts on his life, reported Times of Israel.
A number of Russian journalists and political activists critical of the Putin regime have been murdered in recent years.
Two years ago, Pavel Sheremet, a journalist whom many young reporters looked up to, was murdered in Kiev.
In 2015, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered by assassins who shot him in the back in Moscow.
In March last year, a former Russian State Deputy Denis Voronenkov was gunned down in the center of Kiev.
A former soldier in the Chechen war, Babchenko became one of Russia’s best-known war correspondents. Several years ago, he left his homeland fearing for his life after criticizing Russian policy in Ukraine and Syria.
While searching for a new country to live and work in, Babchenko lived briefly in Israel, home to some 1 million Russian speakers.
Speaking with Haaretz, he said that any opposition to Putin had been crushed in Russia and that “the remaining fragments are scattered “from Tel Aviv to New York.”
He had been denounced by pro-government politicians in Russia over comments on social media about the Russian bombing of Aleppo in Syria’s war and over his characterization of Russia as an aggressor towards Ukraine.
Prior to the revelation that the death was faked, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected a Ukrainian allegation that Moscow was behind the murder of the dissident Russian journalist, calling it part of an anti-Russian campaign, the TASS news agency reported.