Ukrainian journalist Arkady Babchenko appeared “alive and well” at a press conference in Kiev a day after it was claimed that the Russian government had shot him dead.
Mr Babchenko was reported to have been killed outside his apartment yesterday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman saying he was confident the “Russian totalitarian machine” was behind his murder.
However, in a bizarre twist, the opposition journalist made an astonishing appearance in a press conference in Ukraine this afternoon, claiming his death had been “staged” to expose Russian agents.
Flanked by Ukrainian security services, Mr Babchenko said he was sorry for any distress caused by reports of his death with “special apologies” for his wife who was unaware of the operation.
Kremlin spokesman Konstantin Kosachev blasted the scam as “a stage in a series of delusional actions of the Ukrainian authorities directed at Russia” and said he was disappointed at the journalist’s involvement.
Mr Babchenko claimed he had information of a planned attempt on his life a month ago with the level of detail leading him to suspect the involvement of Russian security services.
“As far as I know, this operation was in the pipeline for two months. I was let in the loop a month ago.
“Over this month I say the guys worked really hard. They were constantly in contact with me. We deliberated, thought things out, acted. And this covert action was the result,” he told the press conference.
Mr Babchenko became a journalist after serving in the Russian army during the Chechen wars from 1994-2000. However, he later criticised Moscow for its activities in Syria and Ukraine.
After standing as an opposition candidate in the 2012 elections he fled the country claiming he no longer felt safe.
In the aftermath of his reported murder the Ukrainian government sought to blame Russia, describing Mr Babchenko as a “true friend of Ukraine” who told the truth about “Russian aggression” through his reporting.
However Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied involvement and demanded a prompt investigation by Ukrainian authorities.
“Bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine for the Kiev regime,” it said in a statement.
Head of Ukraine’s national security service Sergey Gritsak congratulated “his family and the entire world who had been watching” his Lazarus-like reappearance.