Russia, Ukraine blame each other for journalist killing

Sergei Bobylev  TASS

Sergei Bobylev TASS

"The Committee to protect journalists calls on Ukrainian authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into the murder of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was shot dead in Kiev the evening of may 29", - said in the message of the organization in Twitter. His wife found him bleeding and called an ambulance, but he died on his way to the hospital.

General prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who appeared alongside Babchenko at the news conference, said it was necessary to fake the journalist's death so that the organisers of the plot to kill him would believe they had succeeded.

The head of Ukraine's security service Vasyl Grytsak said the set-up had foiled "a cynical plot and (allowed his officers to) document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime".

Arkadiy Babchenko, a Russian citizen and journalist living in Ukraine, has been killed in the Ukrainian capital.

"I'm still alive", Babchenko told a group of fellow reporters. "I'm sorry you had to go through this but there was no other way".

"Special apologies to my wife for the hell she's been through these two days", he added.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday finding out Babchenko was still alive came as the "best news".

In recent years, most of his journalistic reports and opinion pieces have been published on his Facebook page, which has nearly 200,000 followers.

"I'm still alive", he said.

In a post to Facebook just hours after news of Babchenko's death emerged, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said, "I am convinced that the Russian totalitarian machine could not forgive his honesty and principled position". Babchenko was 19 when he was sent to fight in Russia's first Chechen campaign in the 1990s as a conscript. "Babchenko was well known for his critical journalism, and authorities must consider his murder as an attack on press freedom".

Babchenko was a veteran war correspondent who worked for a number of media outlets over the years.

Babchenko fled Russian Federation past year, fearing for his life, and settled in Ukraine.

The man allegedly paid to organise Mr Babchenko's killing was detained on Wednesday, he said, showing a video of the arrest.

He faced backlash after commenting on the crash of a Russian plane transporting the world-famous military choir Alexandrov Ensemble en route to Syria. Russia's high commissioner for human rights, Tatiana Moskalkova, promised to address Ukrainian authorities, urging them to pay special attention to the investigation of the journalist's murder.

In 2016, Ukranian-Belarussian journalist Pavel Sheremet, who had also left Russian Federation, was killed by auto bomb in central Kiev as he was driving to work, according to the Kyiv Post.

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