Anti-Kremlin Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was pronounced dead Tuesday. Reports said that his wife found him in their apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, with multiple gunshot wounds in his back. Reports from that day said that he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Babchenko left Russia last year and had told people that he feared for his life. When he turned up dead, fingers were quickly pointed at the Russian government, which has a long history of eliminating dissidents.
But on Wednesday, Babchenko showed up at a news conference very much alive.
Babchenko and the Ukrainian Security Service revealed that the whole incident had been an elaborate sting orchestrated to flush out a real assassin, who had reportedly been hired by the Russian government. At least one person was reportedly arrested in this sting.
“I have buried many friends and colleagues many times and I know the sickening feeling,” Babchenko said at the news conference. “I am sorry you had to experience it. But there was no other way.”
It's not clear whether or not his own wife knew that he was not actually dying when she found him.
“Olechka, I am terribly sorry," he said, addressing her at the press conference, “but there were no other options.”
The head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Vasyl Gritsak, said that investigators had determined that Russian authorities had paid a Ukrainian national $40,000 to kill Babchenko. That man had then hired an acquaintance to carry out the hit.
What did the Russian journalist do?
Babchenko said that he had been communicating with Ukrainian security services for the past month. Full details of how the sting was carried out and how the staged assassination managed to reveal the real assassin have not yet been revealed.
Babchenko was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, speaking out against Russia’s annexation of Crimea and against Russian involvement in Syria. After moving to Ukraine from Russia in February 2017, Babchenko continued to receive death threats, but reportedly did not take them seriously, according to someone who knew him.
The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that his country would be offering Babchenko protection.
"It is unlikely that Moscow will calm down. I've given an order to provide Arkady and his family with protection," Poroshenko tweeted.
A spokesperson for Russia's foreign ministry accused the Ukrainian government of carrying out the operation for “propagandistic effect.”
Babchenko ended the news conference by saying, “I’ve done my work. I’m still alive for the moment.”