UPDATE — 2:34 p.m. EDT: Arkady Babchenko, a Russian-born journalist often critical of Kremlin policies who was apparently shot to death outside his Kiev home, appeared on Ukrainian television Wednesday.
According to Ukraine’s Security Service, Russia had planned to assassinate Babchenko, so the government in Kiev decided to stage his murder as part of a sting operation.
Babchenko said authorities told him the Kremlin had paid $40,000 up front for the contracted killing, although one of the men arrested who allegedly helped organize the plot is Ukrainian.
A Russian war correspondent who was forced to flee his homeland after his frequent criticism of the Russian government’s policies in Ukraine and Syria was shot dead in front of his Kiev, Ukraine, apartment on Tuesday.
Arkady Babchenko, 41, died while being transported to a hospital.
Officials say Babchenko was discovered by his wife at the entrance of the residence after returning from shopping. Police say Babchenko was shot several times in the back.
Police theorize the murderer waited for Babchenko in the entrance of his apartment complex and opened fire as he entered the building.
Speculating on motives behind his murder, Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko told reporters: “The first and the most probable version is his professional activity.”
Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman blamed Russia for the crime.
“I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance,” Groysman wrote in a Facebook post.
A frequent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Babchenko fled Russia for Prague and Israel before settling in the Ukrainian capital in late 2017.
Babchenko reportedly left Russia after receiving death threats for a 2017 Facebook post expressing apathy following the crash of a Russian military aircraft in the Black Sea. Several pro-Kremlin journalists were killed in the disaster.
While living in Kiev, Babchenko hosted a television show, Prime: Babchenko, and wrote opinion pieces for Ukrainian newspapers.
A combat veteran who served in the Russian army in both Chechen wars, Babchenko turned to journalism after his discharge from the service. He later authored One Soldier’s War, a vivid account of his experiences fighting in Chechnya.
As a journalist and war correspondent, Babchenko covered the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the ongoing conflict in the Donbass region and the Russian annexation of Crimea, often harshly criticizing the Kremlin.
Babchenko’s murder follows the slaying of three other Russian dissidents in Ukraine. The 2017 deaths of Russian politician Denis Voronenkov and Amina Okueva and the 2016 murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet remain unsolved.
[Daily Mail] [BBC] [Reuters] [CNN] [Politico] [Photo courtesy RFE/RL]