KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - A Russian journalist who was reportedly gunned down in Ukraineâ€™s capital strolled into a news conference that authorities called Wednesday to discuss the investigation of his death, revealing that the slaying had been staged to foil an alleged Kremlin hit plot.
â€śIâ€™m still alive,â€ť Arkady Babchenko, 41, told startled fellow reporters at the news conference held less than a day after police reported he had been shot and killed at his Kiev apartment building. Ukrainian police said Tuesday that Babchenko, a strong critic of the Kremlin, was shot multiple times in the back Tuesday, found bleeding there by his wife and died on the way to the hospital. Kievâ€™s police chief said he suspected the journalist was killed because of his work.
Details of the sting operation were not clear, including why authorities decided to go to such lengths to make it look as if Babchenko was dead. The head of the Ukrainian Security Service said the suspected organizer of the alleged hit plot was detained Wednesday, suggesting the bogus killing was aimed at flushing him out.
Babchenko apologized to his wife, who he said was not briefed on the scheme in advance, â€śfor the hell she had to go through in the past two days. There was no choice there, either.â€ť
The astonishing turn of events brought harsh criticism from Russia and the international media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.
The journalist groupâ€™s director, Christophe Deloire, expressed on Twitter his â€śdeepest indignation at the discovery of the manipulation of the Ukrainian secret services. It is always deeply dangerous for states to play with the facts.â€ť
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, compared Ukraineâ€™s allegations to Britainâ€™s claims that Moscow was behind the nerve gas poisonings of a Russian former spy and his daughter in England. Russia vehemently denies poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal.
â€śThe logic is the same - to defame Russia,â€ť Kosachev told the state news agency Tass.
Neither Babchenko nor Ukrainian Security Service chief Vasyl Gritsak provided details of how they staged Babchenkoâ€™s injuries or made his wife believe he was dead.
The movie-like twist came as Gritsak convened the news conference to announce the security agency and the police had solved Babchenkoâ€™s reported slaying.