Ukraine president says will protect Russian journalist after plot

Arkady Babchenko left Russia in 2017 saying he was receiving threats and concerned he might be jailed

FACEBOOK ARKADY BABCHENKO Arkady Babchenko left Russia in 2017 saying he was receiving threats and concerned he might be jailed

A prominent Russian investigative journalist was shot dead on Tuesday in Ukraine's capital, Kiev. "All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations", he said, referring to the killings of a number of the Kremlin's critics in Ukraine in recent years.

General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who appeared alongside Babchenko, said it had been necessary to fake the journalist's death so that the organizers of the plot to kill him would believe they had succeeded.

Babchenko was killed less than a month after Putin was inaugurated for his 4th Kremlin term and as Russian Federation gears up to host the World Cup later this month.

The country's security services said Babchenko's death was faked to foil a plot to take his life. "We must defend freedom of speech and it is vital that those responsible are now held to account".

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National Police spokesman Yaroslav Trakalo had told reporters that the purported killer had been waiting for Babchenko in the stairwell. Babchenko was a vocal critic of the Kremlin and left Russian Federation in 2017, saying he no longer felt safe there.

"I call on Ukraine authorities to conduct immediate & full investigation", he tweeted.

Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform said Babchenko, 41, was shot in the back, at his home, and died in an ambulance. Babchenko showed up one day after he had purportedly been killed in a police ruse to try to catch a person who ordered him shot. That, according to the Ukrainians, was a local man who had been recruited by Russian intelligence.

Babchenko's resurfacing immediately brought cheers of jubilation from his colleagues at Radio Free Europe in Ukraine. Babchenko was 19 when he was sent to fight in Russia's first Chechen campaign in the 1990s as a conscript. A contributor to media outlets including top Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, he regularly accused Russian authorities of hunting down Kremlin critics and unleashing wars in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.

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Some journalism-related organizations strongly criticized the faked killing, calling it "distressing".

"We are relieved that #ArkadyBabchenko is alive", it said.

He stressed that the European Union is concerned about the increase of such crimes in Europe and requires a thorough investigation of the incident.

He faced backlash after commenting on the crash of a Russian plane transporting the world-famous military choir Alexandrov Ensemble en route to Syria.

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Authorities in Ukraine stated that the culprits were linked to Russian security services, according to a translation of remarks at the press conference by the BBC.

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