Russian journalist critical of Kremlin shot dead in Ukraine
Arkady Babchenko had left Russia last autumn, saying he had received threats.
A Russian journalist who had been highly critical of the Kremlin has been shot dead in the Ukrainian capital, with police saying he was targeted because of his work.
Arkady Babchenko died on the way to hospital after his wife found him bleeding at their apartment building in Kiev.
Police said the 41-year-old died of multiple gunshots wounds to his back.
Kiev Police chief Andriy Krishchenko said in televised comments that Mr Babchencko’s “professional activities” were a factor.
Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he was “horrified” by Mr Babchenko’s death.
“I call on Ukraine authorities to conduct immediate & full investigation,” he tweeted.
The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York said on Twitter that “Ukrainian authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation” into Mr Babchenko’s murder.
The 41-year-old was scathingly critical of the Kremlin’s policies, assailing Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the Russian campaign in Syria.
Horrified by report that well-known Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was shot and killed in his home in #Kyiv. I call on #Ukraine authorities to conduct immediate & full investigation. My thoughts are with journalist’s family.— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) May 29, 2018
Ukrainian and Russian officials immediately traded finger-pointing over his death.
Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian MP who serves as an adviser to the interior minister, said on Facebook that investigators would be looking at “Russian spy agencies’ efforts to get rid of those who are trying to tell the truth about what is going on in Russia and Ukraine”.
Mr Gerashchenko said Mr Babchenko’s killer was waiting for him on the staircase inside the journalist’s building and shot him in the back as he was going out to buy bread.
In Moscow, officials and MPs criticised Ukrainian authorities for their alleged failure to protect journalists.
“Ukraine is becoming the most dangerous country for reporters,” Yevgeny Revenko said in remarks carried by the state RIA Novosti news agency. “The Ukrainian government can’t guarantee basic freedoms.”
Another renowned journalist, Pavel Sheremet, a native of Belarus who had worked for Russian media outlets in the past, was killed in a car bombing in central Kiev in July 2016. The case has remained unsolved.
In March 2017, renegade Russian MP Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed at the entrance of an upscale hotel in Kiev. Ukrainian prosecutors alleged that Mr Voronenkov, who had toed the Kremlin line while serving as a Russian MP but turned into a Kremlin critic after his 2016 move to Ukraine, was killed on orders from a Russian crime lord.
Mr Babchenko served in the Russian army and fought during the first separatist war in Chechnya during the 1990s. He later became a journalist and worked as a military correspondent for several Russian media outlets. He also published several books based on his wartime experiences.
Some of his articles and posts outraged many Russians. In one, he said he felt no regret about the deaths of Russian army choir members and others from a December 2016 plane crash as they were heading to perform before Russian troops in Syria. Some even called for stripping Mr Babchenko of his Russian citizenship.
Mr Babchenko left Russia in February 2017, saying he was receiving threats and concerned he might be jailed.
He moved to Kiev last autumn, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station, ATR.