'I'm alive' - Russian journalist faked death to foil assassination plot

Police guard the front door of the multi-storey building where Russian opposition journalist Arkady Babchenko lived in Kiev Ukraine Tuesday

During the news conference Wednesday, Babchenko apologized to his wife and all those who believed he had been killed - but said the secrecy had been unavoidable.

Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), led the press conference, ostensibly convened to give the media details on the assassination of Babchenko.

"We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive", the group said.

Hrytsak said the Russian security services were behind the plot and that his agents had apprehended the organizer.

Mr Peskov said Ukraine had become a unsafe country for journalists and press freedom there was under severe pressure. "I want to say sorry for your suffering", the journalist said. The SBU said Russian Federation paid the would-be assassin $30,000 to carry out the hit.

Russia's Foreign Ministry, which had earlier denied any involvement in Babchenko's death, said it was pleased to hear that he was actually alive, accusing Ukraine of "propaganda".

"Also, I would like to express big thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine for saving my life".

In a social media post soon after news of his death emerged, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Vladimir Groysman, said it held Russian Federation responsible. He said he was in constant contact with Ukrainian security services over the course of the past month, adding that he thought they had been planning the operation for up to two months.

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The 41-year-old journalist had spoken publicly about the threats against his life and the fear that drove him to leave Russian Federation.

The threat was made by Yudenich in a social media post, which read: 'So Ramzan is making tea for journalists. It was reported that his wife found him and called the ambulance.

Writing past year in The Guardian, Babchenko described how a Facebook post he had written about the Russian bombing of civilians in Aleppo, Syria, was deemed insufficiently patriotic and led to a systematic campaign against him.

Arkady Babchenko was reported to have been shot in his apartment in Kiev on Tuesday, in a high-profile murder thought to be related to his prominent journalism work.

Babchenko did not take the intimidation too seriously, Ponomarev said Wednesday before the fact that the slaying was staged came out.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously described allegations by the Ukrainian government as "the height of cynicism" and called for other countries to push Kyiv to offer better protection for journalists as they were being killed "with impunity". The aircraft was shot down minutes later.

"Like many dissidents I am used to abuse, but a recent campaign against me was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee", he wrote for British newspaper The Guardian in February 2017.

Gritsak, the security service chief, ended his remarks Wednesday congratulating Babchenko on his "third birthday".

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