Kremlin calls staging of Russian journalist's death in Kiev odd

Stepan Petrenko  TASS

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, whose murder was staged by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in Kiev earlier in the week, said on Thursday that he feared new assassination attempts against him in a couple of months.

When the Ukrainian secret services approached him in April with information about an alleged Moscow-ordered assassination plot, Babchenko said his reaction was: "To hell with you, I want to pack a bag and disappear to the North Pole. Skripal also tried to hide", he added, referring to the Russian ex-spy who was poisoned in the United Kingdom with a nerve agent.

"This incident is odd, to say the least", the Kremlin spokesman noted.

Pressed for details about the contract on his head allegedly taken out by Russian Federation and how the arrest would benefit investigators, Babchenko said he had no idea and was leaving it up to the security service.

The Kremlin has always vehemently denied allegations regarding the deaths of journalists.

Babchenko said Thursday he had told his "closest relatives" about the sting operation in advance, although on Wednesday, he said he had apologized to his wife "for the hell she had to go through in the past two days".

Speaking to The Times, he said that his purported shooting was staged in intricate detail, including the use of pig's blood and make-up to create the appearance that he had been shot multiple times in the back.

He pretended to be dead as medical teams, who were also in on the plan, took him to the hospital in an ambulance before pronouncing him dead and admitting him to the morgue.

Once inside the morgue, Babchenko said he was "resurrected", taking off the blood-stained clothes.

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For some, faking death has been a way to dodge criminal charges or gain wealth.

"We had already thought out how it would happen, that the murder would take place on the landing when I opened the door" to go inside, he said.

"My goal was to stay alive and ensure the safety of my family", Mr Babchenko, an anchor on Ukrainian TV, said in response to criticism that his faked death compromised journalistic ethics.

Babchenko said Thursday he "hated" Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This person is responsible for several wars, this person is responsible for thousands of deaths".

Authorities said they suspected he was killed because of his work.

Video of his colleagues watching the press conference - and being shocked to see their fellow journalist on television alive - quickly spread through social media.

"We managed not only to break this cynical provocation, but also to document the preparation of this shameful crime by Russian special services", SBU chief Vasyl Hrytsak said.

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