Make-up, pig's blood used to fake Russian journalist's death

Stepan Petrenko  TASS

Stepan Petrenko TASS

Babchenko hit back saying that he went along with the ruse organised by Ukrainian security officials because he feared for his life.

"I have buried acquaintances, I have buried colleagues, I have buried friends, I am exhausted of burying them", said Babchenko, who fought in Russia's two wars in Chechnya before becoming a war journalist.

Skripal was released from hospital earlier this month after being found unconscious along with his daughter, who was also poisoned, in Salisbury in March. He said he then washed off the fake blood and dressed himself in a sheet.

Britain says Russian Federation is culpable for the poisoning, an allegation Moscow denies.

His reported murder touched off a war of words between Ukraine and Russian Federation, a flurry of condemnations from European capitals and Washington, and shivers through the journalistic communities in both countries.

Herman said he had been contacted by someone close to the Kremlin about plans to kill Babchenko but that he instead turned this information over to the Ukrainian authorities and worked on counter-intelligence operations with them.

The movie-like twist came as Gritsak convened the news conference to announce that the security agency and the police had solved Babchenko's reported slaying.

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Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said in a social media posting late on Tuesday he was convinced what he called "the Russian totalitarian machine" had not forgiven Mr Babchenko for what Mr Groysman called his honesty.

A man who allegedly was paid $40,000 by the Russian security service to organize and carry out the hit on Babchenko was detained Wednesday. Police reported making one arrest. He explained that he had faked his own death, with the help of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), in a Hollywood-style sting operation created to capture those who really were out to get him.

Ukraine on Thursday defended the action of its state security services in faking the death of a Russian dissident journalist after global criticism.

"This could have been a story about how, in all likelihood, Russian special services ordered the killing of a journalist in Kiev", says Ilya Lozovsky, managing editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a multinational investigative consortium.

Babchenko also responded to critics who have said that the ruse may ruin the credibility of journalists and the West, raising a number of ethical questions.

RT, the Russian state-funded media outlet, quickly jumped at the chance to compare Babchenko's faked murder with the poisoning of defected Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

"Relieved that Arkadiy #Babchenko is alive!" the office of the OSCE's Harlem Desir tweeted. "(But) I deplore the decision to spread false information on the life of a journalist.

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