SURPRISE ! ‘Murdered’ Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko turns up alive

Arkady BabchenkoA Russian journalist and critic of the Kremlin, reported to have been shot dead in Ukraine, showed up alive at a news conference on Wednesday to declare that his murder was faked by Ukrainian security services in an effort to foil an assassination plot against him.

In a stunning development, Arkady Babchenko, 41, walked into a room of journalists in Kiev who had been expecting to get an update on his slaying.
He apologized to his wife, Olechka — who on Tuesday was reported to have found him bleeding to death at his apartment — for the “hell” she had gone through. Ukrainian officials offered a jaw-dropping explanation for his so-called death: to expose a Russian plot against him.
Two people, suspected of being the person who ordered the hit and the potential assassin, are in the custody of the security services, spokeswoman for the Ukraine Prosecutor General, Larisa Sargan, said later Wednesday.
The elaborate ruse raised many questions. Chief among them, why was it necessary to go to such extraordinary lengths to expose the plot, who was in on it, and what did Olechka Babchenko really see when she found the bleeding body of her husband?
At the news conference on Wednesday, none of these was addressed. Instead, flanked by Ukranian security officials, wearing a hoodie and occasionally flashing a sheepish smile, Babchenko launched into an explanation of the ploy.
Kateryna Lisunova, an acquaintance of Babchenko who works in New York as a special correspondent for Ukrainian television station Pryamiy, was in the ATR newsroom in Kiev to watch the news conference and posted a video on Facebook of people clapping, cheering and jumping as Babchenko appeared.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which had earlier decried Babchenko’s “murder,” expressed relief that he was alive but demanded answers from the Ukranian authorities. “We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Ukrainian authorities must now disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist’s murder.”

Babchenko ‘no longer felt safe’ in Russia

News of the apparent murder had stunned Kiev on Tuesday. Shortly after Babchenko’s death was announced, Moscow and Kiev began blaming each other for the killing of the journalist, who is a vocal critic of the Kremlin and left Russia in 2017, saying he no longer felt safe.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman implied Russia had orchestrated the “killing” of Babchenko, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed that idea and slammed Ukraine as an unsafe place for journalists to work.
On Wednesday Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the affair was a propaganda exercise by Ukraine, but that she was happy Babchenko was alive.
Babchenko left Russia after he criticized the Kremlin in a Facebook post in 2017.
He faced backlash after commenting on the crash of a Russian plane transporting the world-famous military choir Alexandrov Ensemble en route to Syria. They were traveling to perform for pilots involved in Russia’s air campaign on Aleppo.
Babchenko called Russia an aggressor, and accused the country of killing children in its air support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
CNN