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Russia cries foul: Foreign Ministry says journalist's faked death scheme was used to defame country

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The Russian government is firing back after being accused in an assassination plot against an anti-Kremlin journalist. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the BBC reported that Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was found by his wife, shot several times in his back at the entrance of their apartment building in Kiev, Ukraine. He reportedly died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

But on Wednesday, during a news conference where his colleagues and family were anxiously watching on television to hear the details of his murder — Babchenko strolled into the room to the dismay of the crowd.

Um. Explain.

Babchenko moved to the Ukraine last year, feeling that his life was threated if he remained in Russia after he posted on Facebook about a plane that went down in the Red Sea carrying a Red Army choir headed to Syria. (Sorry readers, the FB post is in Russian and I can't decipher it. But we can all speculate together.)

According to Babchenko, he subsequently received death threats from the Russian government.

Evidently, the Ukrainian Security Service uncovered a Russian plot on his life that they discovered two months ago, and notified him of the plan last month. Babchenko credits the SBU with saving his life. A Ukrainian citizen had allegedly been paid $40,000 to make sure Babchenko was dead.

In the conference, Babchenko said, "I did my job. I'm still alive. ... I have buried many friends and colleagues many times and I know the sickening feeling." Telling his wife, "I am sorry you had to experience it. But there was no other way."

Neither SBU or Babchenko have revealed how they set up the plot or how his wife was fooled into thinking that he was actually dead.

A suspect was detained in the murder plot, who was also allegedly hired to procure weapons for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities in Ukraine.

So, what's the deal with Russia?

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Ukraine of "fanning anti-Russian hysteria," saying, "We're confident our foreign partners and the relevant international agencies will draw correct conclusions from the whole situation."

But this isn't the first time Russia has been accused of an assassination attempt — and in fact, they've become all too common. Alleged plots involving attempts at killing people with poison gas and the suspicious death of another controversial Russian journalist just last month have put the international community on high alert.

Now, Russia has been handed what CNN called "a public-relations gift to the Russian government." In a Facebook message, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: "That Babchenko is alive is the best news. Wish it was always like that. Too bad that in other cases, the masquerade didn't quite come off."

She called the situation with Babchenko and the Ukrainian Security Service a story drummed up for "propagandistic effect," likening it to the recent Salisbury poisoning blamed on Russia — which was, according to Zakharova, "by hook or by crook to defame Russia."

Hang on, even more people are upset about this:

Others have used the fake-death stunt to prove the existence of fake news. The Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Nina Ognianova said, "We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive.

"Ukrainian authorities must now disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist's murder. CPJ is investigating this unprecedented situation and will have no further comment until we have more details."

 

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