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'I'm alive' - Russian journalist faked death to foil assassination plot

'I'm alive' - Russian journalist faked death to foil assassination plot

The State Security Service (SBU) said Russian Federation had sought to pay US$40,000 (NZ$) to assassinate Arkady Babchenko, who moved to Kiev a year ago following threats in his homeland.

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko says that he was involved in a special operation to prevent the terrorist attacks of Russian special services on the territory of Ukraine a month before his "murder".

Ukraine's chief of security services, Vasyl Gritsak, said Ukrainian police had detained one suspect involved in the real plot against Babchenko, a former rebel fighter in eastern Ukraine - in other words, one allied with Russian Federation in the fighting there.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Ukraine said the reporter had died from three gunshots to the back in the stairwell of his apartment building in a contract-style killing in a case that provoked an outpouring of grief and a diplomatic spat.

Moscow-born war reporter Mr Babchenko, 41, was said to have left behind a wife and six children when it was thought he had been murdered.

"I would like to apologise for what you have all had to go through", said Babchenko, who looked on the verge of tears. He said had been part of a special Ukrainian operation to thwart a Russian attempt on his life.

It said it had detained a Ukrainian citizen recruited by Russian Federation to find someone to kill Mr Babchenko.

Journalist Arkady Babchenko fled his country in 2017 after learning that a campaign was being waged against him by Russian officials.

Babchenko said he was not allowed to go into the details of his false death.

Mr Babchenko, a former soldier in the Chechen war, became one of Russia's best-known war correspondents.

"It is always very unsafe for a government to play with the facts, especially using journalists for their fake stories", the head of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, wrote on Twitter.

Babchenko fought with the Russian army in Chechnya in the 1990s and went on to cover conflicts in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia and Ukraine before leaving Moscow after a campaign of harassment past year.

Reporters Without Borders condemned Wednesday the staging of a murder of an anti-Kremlin journalist in Ukraine as a "pathetic stunt".

General prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who appeared alongside Mr Babchenko, 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.

"I'm still alive", he said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was "appalled" by the killing of Babchenko.

He had been heavily critical of Moscow's annexation of Crimea, its alleged support of separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine, and Russia's involvement in Syria's civil war.

Ukrainian authorities had been quick to blame Russia's "totalitarian machine" for his murder, which Moscow denied.

Babchenko thanked everyone who mourned his supposed death, according to the news service.

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