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Russian journalist Babchenko alive, SBU staged his “assassination” to catch organizer [Updated]

Journalist Arkady Babchenko, alive and happy, in the background of SBU head Hrytsak and Prosecutor General Lutsenko. Screenshot: Channel 112 Ukraine
Russian journalist Babchenko alive, SBU staged his “assassination” to catch organizer [Updated]
Article by: Yuri Zoria, Alya Shandra
Exiled Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko who was reportedly shot dead in his back in Kyiv yesterday evening has shown up safe and sound at a briefing of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) today on 30 May.

SBU Head Vasyl Hrytsak told journalists that the special service faked the death of Babchenko to catch those who had plotted his assassination.

Journalists and police congregated near the Babchenko’s house. Kyiv, 29 May evening. Image: Facebook/mixailotkach

“I could have offered my condolences to the family of Arkadiy Babchenko, but I won’t do that. On the contrary, I will greet Arkady with this third birthday and invite him to the room,” said Hrytsak at a briefing which was to be dedicated to the finding the culprits of the “murder” of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. News about the crime spread like wildfire yesterday evening.

Babchenko’s “second” birthday was detailed in a Facebook post which was yesterday considered to be his last: when he worked as a war correspondent in eastern Ukraine in 2014, he was not allowed to travel in an overloaded helicopter. The chopper was shot down hours after taking off.

At the briefing, Mr. Babchenko thanked everyone who was mourning his death, thanked the SBU for saving his life, and begged his wife’s pardon. The operation took two months to prepare and it was secret even for her.

“My life was saved, but what is more important, more serious terrorist acts were prevented,” he said.

According to Babchenko, the masterminds of the murder had his passport photo which could have been taken only at the Russian passport service. The Putin critic who fled Russia to Ukraine after the start of a vicious repression campaign in 2017 said he considers this to be evidence of the involvement of Russian state organs in the preparation of the murder plot.

He noted that the crime was prepared to take place during the Champions League Final which took place on 26 May in Kyiv. Babchenko said he attempted to stonewall the attempted murder by pretending to break his leg or travel somewhere.

According to Hrytsak, SBU has detained a “Ukrainian citizen H.” recruited for the assassination by the Russian special services. “He was detained just three hours ago,” said the SBU head. Hrytsak noted that the murder of Babchenko was only part of a plan to destroy some 30 Russian citizens who left Russia under pressure from Putin’s regime. Some of their names are known to the SBU, but will not be publicized for safety reasons.

Hrytsak detailed that “Citizen H” had offered his acquaintance, a Donbas war veteran, to carry out the assassination for $30,000. A deposit of $15,000 was paid to the veteran beforehand. “Citizen H” received $10,000 from the Russian side, Hrytsak told. At the briefing, Prosecutor General Lutsenko said that the veteran had cooperated with the SBU.

Apparently, “Citizen H” was to escape from Ukraine after the murder, which Lutsenko termed an “operative combination,” was carried out, but was detained by the SBU. Apparently, both the assassin-to-be and the suspected organizer, “Citizen H,” are under custody.

The SBU has uploaded a video portraying the detention of “Citizen H” to its youtube channel. Another video on the channel claims to feature an intercepted conversation between “Citizen H” and the veteran.

The Ukrainian Special Service became aware of the planned murder and decided to stage it, so that the organizer of the murder would think it took place. Lutsenko said that the operatives are conducting a search for additional information about the mastermind of the murder.

Apart from the murder, the SBU Head said that “citizen H” was tasked by the Russian special services and given money to buy ammunition and weapons to store them in central Ukraine. Hrytsak said that these weapons included 300 Kalashnikov rifles, hundreds of kilos of explosives, unlimited ammunition, mines for mortars etc.

President Poroshenko has stated that Babchenko and his family will be offered 24/7 security.

The suspect’s image released yesterday by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

Yesterday evening, police reported that 41-year-old Putin’s critic Arkady Babchenko who fled Russia last year was shot several times in his back at his doorstep and later died in the ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Read more: Exiled Putin critic, Russian journalist Babchenko assassinated in Kyiv

Arkady Babchenko as a military reporter for Novaya Gazeta in the Russian-occupied Georgian city of Tskhinvali. August 2008, Georgia. Photograph:

Arkady Bachenko is known for his fierce criticism of Vladimir Putin’s regime and his military reportages. He works as a host of a TV show on the Crimean Tatar ATR Channel in Kyiv.

More about Babchenko’s work:

Update 21:50:

The SBU has shared the footage of the moment when the organizer was paying the second half of the $30,000 to the executor:

Head of SBU Hrytsak insisted at today’s briefing that the killing of Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian intelligence services.

“The cynicism of the Russian “Chekists” [KGB operatives – ed.] is so tremendous that already within an hour after the first information stab about the assassination attempt on Babchenko’s life, the Investigation Committee of Russian Federation initiated a criminal case,” the SBU Head noted. The Russians began to demand from Ukraine a quick investigation into the “murder of the Russian citizen”, including at a UN Security Council meeting, he said.

The agency has published pages from a dossier on Babchenko reportedly handed to the organizer by Russian special services he shared with the executor via an unnamed messenger. The pages contain detailed information on the journalist and his family members, including personal data, phone numbers and bank accounts, and social networks profiles.

“The Russian intelligence agencies [also] tasked the organizer with another ‘project’: using the money of Russia’s special services, buy on the black market weapons and ammunition from the ATO area [wartorn areas of Donatsk and Luhansk oblasts – ed.] and organize caches on the territory of the Kyiv Oblast,” Hrytsak said.

The pre-trial investigation is underway.

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