A Russian journalist who was reportedly gunned down in Ukraine'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.
Babchenko, a prominent war reporter and Kremlin critic, was reported assassinated on Tuesday, but then appeared in the flesh at a press conference on Wednesday, where the SBU said that they faked his death to catch a would-be assassin who was allegedly contracted by Russian Federation.
He said Ukrainian agents came to him about a month ago and said that Russian security services had put out an order for his slaying.
On Thursday (Friday NZT), Babchenko described what a makeup artist and security officers did to make the staged murder look genuine.
He pretended to be dead as medical teams, who were also in on the plan, took him to the hospital in an ambulance before pronouncing him dead and admitting him to the morgue.
Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said the man contacted by German to kill Babchenko informed authorities of the plot. "I have buried acquaintances, I have buried colleagues, I have buried friends, I am exhausted of burying them", he said, adding he wanted to create a new life for himself.
"Then I watched the news and saw what a great guy I had been".
However, on Wednesday, the journalist appeared at a press conference hosted by SBU chief Vasyl Hrytsak, who said that earlier reports about the murder were part of an operation to thwart a real assassination plot targeting Babchenko.
Police said Tuesday night that Babchenko had been shot and killed in his apartment building.
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On Thursday Babchenko thanked the Ukrainian security service for saving his life.
Ukrainian police said on Tuesday that Babchenko had been shot at the doorway of his flat after returning from a nearby shop. However, Babchenko said that participating in the ruse was a life-or-death decision.
Arkady Babchenko at the press conference in Kyiv.
"Everyone who says this undermines trust in journalists: What would you do in my place, if they came to you and said there is a hit out on you?"
Pressed for details about the contract on his head allegedly taken out by Russian Federation and how the arrest would benefit investigators, Babchenko said he had no idea and was leaving it up to the security service.
"But then I realised, where do you hide? Skripal also tried to hide".
However, he decided against fleeing Ukraine after hearing of the threat against his life, referencing the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal who was recently poisoned with a nerve agent in the UK.
Britain said Russian Federation was culpable for the poisoning, an allegation Moscow denies.
"I don't care whether you believe it next time.as when I'm dead it won't matter to me anymore", said Babchenko.