Russia journalist critical of Moscow's military role in Syria, stages his own murder

Russia journalist critical of Moscow's military role in Syria, stages his own murder
A Russian journalist who staged his own murder in Ukraine on Tuesday, is well known for defending civilians who fell victim to Moscow's bombing in Syria.
3 min read
30 May, 2018
Babchenko stunned journalists in Kiev on Wednesday [AFP]
Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Arkadiy Babchenko staged a shock prank this week, which Ukraine intelligence said was intended to foil a real plot on his life.

Babchenko was reported to have been gunned down outside his home after a shopping trip in Kiev on Tuesday, a city where a number of other anti-Kremlin journalists and activists have been murdered.

Fingers immediately pointed at Moscow as Babchenko was a well-known critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier than day, Ukrainian intelligence chief Vasyl Grytsak told a news conference that Russian spies were to blame for Babchenko's "murder".

"According to information received by the Ukrainian security service, the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves," he said. 

Hours later, he turned up at another press conference with a very much alive Babchenko. 

"Thanks to this operation we were able to foil a cynical plot and document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime," he told the stunned media.

Activists had feared that Babchenko was the latest Kremlin-critic to be murdered in Ukraine.

A former Russian soldier, he became disgusted with war and disillusioned with Moscow's role in Ukraine and Syria, living as an exile in Kiev.

Babchenko is known as a fierce critic of Russia's imperial endeavors in Ukraine and Syria.

He says he holds a deep emotional connection with the victims of Russia's wars.

Babchenko is a firm critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but courted most controversy at home for his response to the death of 82 Russians when a plane carrying them to Syria crashed into the Black Sea in 2016.

He expressed neither joy, nor sorrow in the deaths of the musicians of the military choir sent to entertain pilots and troops at Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Syria, nor the journalists embedded with the unit.

Instead he voiced sadness at the thousands of Syrian civilians killed by Russian bombing - particularly children - since Moscow entered the Syria war in Septemer 2015 to back President Bashar al-Assad.

Later, he said his intention with the post was not to insult the dead but to remind Russians of Moscow's role in the killings in Syria, particularly the brutal offensive on East Aleppo.

"I didn't call for anything or insult anyone. I just reminded my readers that Russia was indiscriminately bombing Aleppo, without recognising that dozens of children were dying in those bombs, their photographs making their way around the world. I also called Russia an aggressor," he wrote.

He faced death threats from supporters of Putin and Russian nationalists following his comments.

Ukraine's intelligence said the staged murder of Babchenko was to uncover real Russian agents in Kiev.