Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist widely thought to have been murdered, is actually alive and well – having rocked up to a press conference, much to the world’s surprise.
Babchenko appeared at a press conference broadcast on Ukrainian television today to break the news that his alleged murder had actually been staged, as a means of exposing Russian agents.
“The operation took two months to prepare,” he explained.
“I was told a month ago. As a result of the operation, one person has been captured, he is being held.”
By the sounds of it, the covert operation was so intricately organised that even his wife didn’t know, with Babchenko adding: “Special apologies to my wife. Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here.”
Babchenko is a journalist and war correspondent, who claimed to have been forced out of his native Russia after receiving death threats.
Well known for being a critic of the Kremlin, he also stood in unofficial elections organised by the opposition in 2012, and also denounced Russia’s actions in Syria and eastern Ukraine.
It was widely reported that Babchenko had been shot three times outside his apartment in Kiev on 29 May, having been out to buy groceries. He was then thought to have died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Just hours before his staged death, Babchenko wrote on Twitter about his fortune back in 2014, when he was refused travel on a Ukrainian military helicopter.
He said: “Four years ago General Kulchitsky wouldn’t take me on his helicopter because there wasn’t the space. It was shot down two hours after this photograph. 14 people died, but I got lucky. It’s a second birthday for me.”
After news broke of his apparent death, Moscow and Kiev began blaming each other for what happened.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman posted on social media, referring to
Babchenko’s last Facebook post.
“This is the last post of Arkady Babchenko. Ten hours ago he wrote about his second birthday. And then they killed him,” read the post.
“I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance. He was a true friend of Ukraine who told the world the truth about Russian aggression.”
Groysman added: “The killers should be punished.”
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “We demand that the Ukrainian authorities make every effort to promptly investigate.”
It added: “Bloody crimes and total impunity had become routine for the Kiev regime”, while offering condolences to Babchenko’s family and friends.