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Ukraine unveils hit list after fake journalist murder

June 2, 2018

Authorities in Kyiv have said their faked killing of a dissident Russian journalist has led them to a lengthy hit list of people targeted abroad. Ukraine's allies are demanding answers after the faked murder.

A man hangs a picture of Arkady Babchenko on a fence of the Russian embassy in Kyiv on May 29, when he was still believed dead
Image: Reuters/G. Garanich

Ukraine has said that its controversial operation involving the staged murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko led security services to discover a list of 47 people who were potential targets for further attacks.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko wrote on Facebook that the mainly Ukrainian and Russian journalists on the list "could be the next victims of terrorists."

He said they had all been told and work was underway to protect them. Ukraine had previously said it knew of about 30 people, including Babchenko, who were being targeted by Russian security services.

Allies call for explanation

His statement followed a meeting earlier Friday, alongside Ukrainian security services head Vasyl Grytsak, with diplomats from Germany and the US, as well as the EU and several other countries who have supported Ukraine, to brief them on the decision to fake the murder.

The operation, during which top officials lied in public about Babchenko's death, has called Kyiv's credibility into question.

Read more: Opinion — Ukraine's cynical Arkady Babchenko deception

On Tuesday, security services told the public Babchenko had been gunned down. The next day, following an outpouring of grief and finger-pointing at Russia, Babchenko appeared at a press conference to reveal the killing was staged, purportedly to save his life and root out those who had targeted him. Moscow has denied any involvement.

Arkady Babchenko
Babchenko made a surprise appearance at a press conference on Wednesday after his death was fakedImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/E. Lukatsky

Kyiv's credibility under scrutiny

Ukraine, along with Babchenko himself, has been criticized not just by Russia, but also by allies and press freedom organizations alike for the tactics. Ukraine is under pressure to provide proof that the ruse was justified.

Kyiv's credibility matters because it counts on financial and sanctions support from Western nations in its standoff with Moscow over the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the deadly four-year conflict with pro-Russia separatists.

Prosecutor-General Lutsenko said Friday that as well as the hit list, the investigation had also turned up important evidence which would be revealed later, linking the plot to Russian intelligence services.

Artyom Kozhin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Moscow on Friday that Kyiv's actions "have definitively undermined trust in Ukrainian sources of information, including official ones."

se/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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