Update 11:22 a.m., 05/30/18: Arkady Babchenko appeared on television Wednesday to announce that Ukrainian forces had staged his murder as part of an operation designed to expose a legitimate threat to his life posed by Russian agents. The original report is below.
A Russian journalist well known for his scathing criticism of the Kremlin was shot dead in his Kiev apartment Tuesday night, apparently in retaliation for his activism, according to Ukrainian national police.
“The first and the most obvious is his professional activities,” Kiev police chief Andriy Krishchenko said of the victim, Arkady Babchenko, who joins the growing ranks of anti-Kremlin activists and journalists who have died under suspicious and/or violent circumstances in recent years.
Babchenko, 41, began his journalistic career as a contract soldier in the Chechnya civil war, chronicling his experience in a bestselling book before serving as a military correspondent for several Russian outlets. He later fled Russia for Ukraine in February 2017 after receiving unspecified threats, which were likely prompted by his extensive reporting on Russian involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Much of Babachenko’s published opinion work also made him deeply unpopular among Kremlin loyalists, and even led to calls for his citizenship to be revoked. In one particularly incendiary column, Babchenko said he did not feel sorry for members of the Russian Army choir that died in a plane crash en route to entertain soldiers serving in Syria.
On Monday, one day before he was killed, Babchenko wrote on Facebook that an unidentified associate of Vladimir Putin had floated the idea of killing him.