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Updated: 13 hours 19 min ago

'Murdered' journalist Arkady Babchenko turns up alive after death staged to 'expose Russian plot'

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 20:54

By Wednesday afternoon, most of Arkady Babchenko's friends and colleagues had gone through the familiar cycle of grief and confusion that follows the killing of a Russian dissident journalist.  Obituaries had been written, travel arrangements were in train for the funeral, and Western politicians including Boris Johnson had announced they were "appalled".  Meanwhile, Ukraine had blamed Russia, Russia had blamed Ukraine, and both launched rival investigations to prove their stories.  And journalists in both countries, taught by bitter experience not to trust official probes into the deaths of their colleagues, pledged to run their own investigations. But then came a twist that no one could have predicted: Vasily Gritsak, the head of Ukraine's Security Service (SBU), called a press conference and announced the whole thing had been a hoax.  Arkady Babchenko, centre, told a Press conference in Kiev the reported murder was part of sting operation to catch a hit squad Credit: VALENTYN OGIRENKO /Reuters For a moment, there was an uncomprehending silence. Then a door opened, and in shuffled a familiar shaven headed man.  Arkady Babchenko was wearing light trousers and a black hoodie. And he was looking somewhat sheepish.  "I have buried many friends and colleagues many times and I know the sickening feeling," he said, by way of explanation. "I am sorry you had to experience it. But there was no other way." "Special apologies to my wife. Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here," he said. "The operation took two months to prepare. I was told a month ago. As a result of the operation, one person has been captured, he is being held," he added.  Mr Gritsak said Mr Babchenko's fake death, which fooled his closest friends and family, as well as international media and world leaders, had allowed Ukrainian agents to thwart a genuine plot to take the journalist's life.  Arkady Babchenko was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin Credit: Vitalii Nosach/Reuters Staging the murder, he implied, was necessary to gain evidence of communication between the hit man and his handlers, who he said worked for the Russian security services.  Yury Lutsenko, Ukraine's prosecutor general, said the alleged plot had involved a Ukrainian citizen recruited by Russian handlers to carry out the murder.  The SBU later released video of what they said was money being handed to the hired killer.  While I am very happy Arkady is alive I am also angry and confused because my fellow reporters and I spent yesterday posting and reading memories we shared of him and feeling very down and out. This was apparently some kind of sting operation. I hope it was worth it.— Simon Ostrovsky (@SimonOstrovsky) May 30, 2018 The death and resurrection of Russia's most famous war correspondent is one of the strangest episodes in the bitter confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.  Kiev hailed a victory and Moscow condemned a stunt. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, compared Ukraine's actions to Britain accusing Moscow of being behind the nerve gas poisonings of a Russian former spy and his daughter in England. Russia vehemently denies poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal. "The logic is the same - to defame Russia," Kosachev told the state news agency Tass. But the move also drew criticism from journalists and media freedom groups who said it undermined faith in reporting and played into the hands of governments who dismiss unwelcome coverage as fake news.  News of Mr Babchenko's "death" sent shock waves through the Russian journalistic community and opposition circles when it was announced on Tuesday evening.  Ukrainian police officers guard the entrance to Babchenko's home in Kiev after his body was apparently found Credit: VALENTYN OGIRENKO /Reuters Ukrainian police said the veteran war correspondent had been killed by a gunman lurking in the stairwell outside his Kiev flat late on Tuesday evening.  Police said his wife, Olga, found his body on the threshold of the flat with several gunshot wounds in his back and that he died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.  All of this seemed entirely plausible to those who knew him. The 2016 Kiev murder of Pavel Sheremet, another journalist, has still not been solved Credit: VALENTYN OGIRENKO Mr Babchenko was an implacable public critic of the Kremlin whose public statements had become increasingly abrasive, and the death appeared to fit with a pattern of murders in Kiev.  The unsolved deaths include that of Pavel Sheremet, a prominent Belarusian born liberal journalist who was blown up in his car in 2016.  The gunman in the stairwell and the shots in the back also recalled the deaths of two other prominent Kremlin critics - Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov, who were murdered in Moscow in 2006 and 2015.  One Russian war photographer and friend of Mr Babchenko told the Telegraph he was "not surprised," on reflection, that his friend had been killed.  Babchenko had fled Russia over fears to his safety Credit: Akrady Babchenko/Facebook Several acquaintances of Mr Babchenko, many of whom had posted tributes online or even written obituaries for the Russian and foreign media, expressed relief mixed with deep unease over the deception.  And media freedom groups condemned the hoax, saying it could put other journalists in danger and play into the hands of those behind real murders.  "It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive," said Christophe Deloire, the head of Reporter Without Borders. "All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations." Babchenko, a conscript in the Chechen wars, was a fierce critic of Putin Credit: Akrady Babchenko/Facebook Nor did it shine a light on the other unsolved murders - which some Ukrainian activists say the authorities have been distinctly reluctant to investigate with anything like the same level of commitment.  When a Ukrainian journalist asked about the investigation into "a real murder - that of Pavel Sheremet," Mr Gritsak replied: "We have a different topic today." The Russian government, which in the morning had condemned Mr Babchenko's murder and denied accusations of involvement, in the evening welcomed his recovery and swiftly condemned the hoax as "propaganda."  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko  Credit: AP "The fact that Babchenko is alive is the best news" said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the foreign ministry. "The fact that the whole story was created for propaganda effect is obvious." The Ukrainian government was defiant over the operation on Wednesday night. "I congratulate the SBU. You have conducted a brilliant operation to protect the life of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko," Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, wrote on Facebook.  Anton Geraschenko, an aide to the Ukrainian interior ministry, justified the pain caused to Mr Babchenko's family and friends by the hoax saying Sherlock Holmes had used the same tactic. "Wasn't that also painful for his relatives and Dr Watson," he wrote on Facebook.  Ukrainian Journalists, who originally rallied at Independence Square in Kiev to mourn anti-Kremlin journalist Arkady Babchenko, celebrate after he appeared alive and well  Credit: AFP Dozens of journalists descended upon the central square in Kiev late on  Wednesday, laughing, hugging and quaffing sparkling wine as they celebrated the "resurrection" of Mr Babchenko. "It's an incredible story of a resurrection," joked Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin who like several of his Russian colleagues had rushed to Kiev to cover the story. "It's a miracle, but a miracle that turned out to be a staged drama". Mr Babchenko himself was in a meeting with Mr Poroshenko as the group of journalists from local and international media popped corks and took selfies. "We were preparing for the funeral, Many of us didn't sleep last night. We bought plane tickets for the first flight to Kiev," said Kanygin, who works for the investigative Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. ATR journalists react on Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko's appearance during a news conference, in the ATR newsroom in Kiev Credit: Reuters He was at the offices of the Ukrainian private television ATR, where Mr Babchenko works, when the "murdered" journalist made his surprise reappearance. "Everybody just erupted, shouting 'hooray, he's alive,' it was an incredible moment," he said.


Judge in Michael Cohen case admonishes Michael Avenatti over his 'publicity tour'

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 18:32

Wednesday’s hearing revolved, in part, around Michael Avenatti himself, including his financial dealings and the nearly 200 television appearances he has made since taking on Stormy Daniels's case. Judge Kimba Wood warned him that if he does formally enter the case, “you would have to stop doing some of the things you’ve been doing.”


Mother of baby girl found dead in a diaper box faces charges

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 18:15

CHESTERFIELD, S.C. (AP) — The mother of an 11-month-old baby found dead in a diaper box near her South Carolina home has been charged with lying to police and improperly disposing of a body, authorities said Wednesday.


10 Amazing BBQ Sauce Recipes

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 17:53


I Wonder Who Wrote That Melania Trump Tweet

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 17:38

It's been 20 days now since Melania Trump accompanied her husband to greet the


Mom Blasts Southwest Airlines For Asking To 'Prove' Biracial Son Was Hers

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 17:14

A Southwest Airlines employee asked a college basketball coach over the


Study on hurricane casualties fuels talk of statehood for Puerto Rico

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 17:10

Critics of the federal response to Maria, comparing it to the relief efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, believe it would have been more effective if the U.S. territory were a state with representation in Washington.


Virginia Adopts Medicaid Expansion, Promising Health Coverage To Almost 400,000

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 17:05

Medicaid expansion is coming to Virginia after the state's legislature


Photos: 17 injured following pileup in dense fog in Southern California

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 16:35

Over a dozen cars were involved in a chain-reaction pileup near Cajon Pass in Southern California on Wednesday morning amid dense fog.


In nod to India, US military renames its Pacific Command

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 16:00

The Pentagon is renaming its oldest and largest military command to reflect the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in US strategic thinking, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday. From now on, the storied US Pacific Command, or PACOM, which was formed after World War II, will be known as the Indo-Pacific Command. The name change is largely symbolic for now, and won't immediately result in any shifts in the command's boundaries or assets across the vast area stretching from the western part of India to America's Pacific coastline.


Kremlin critic turns up alive at televised briefing about his 'murder'

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 15:55

By Matthias Williams and Andrew Osborn KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - A dissident Russian journalist reported murdered in Kiev on Tuesday dramatically reappeared alive on Wednesday during a televised briefing by Ukrainian state security about the killing, which they then said they had faked. Authorities said Arkady Babchenko was shot dead at his flat and found by his wife in a pool of blood. "I would like to apologize for what you have all had to go through," said Babchenko, who looked on the verge of tears.


The Right-To-Try Bill Puts Patients At Risk In The Name Of Helping Them

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 15:04

Congress recently approved the federal right-to-try bill after a months-long


US general says some Taliban interested in peace

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:52

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan are showing interest in peace talks, the top U.S. commander in Kabul said Wednesday, citing "off stage" contacts involving what he described as mid- and high-level leaders of the insurgency.


The mother of all lizards found in Italian Alps

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:41

Scientists said Wednesday they had tracked down the oldest known lizard, a tiny creature that lived about 240 million years ago when Earth had a single continent and dinosaurs were brand new. Scans of the fossilised skeleton of Megachirella revealed the chameleon-sized reptile was an ancestor of today's lizards and snakes, which belong to a group called squamates, an international team wrote in the science journal Nature. This finding dragged the group back in time by 75 million years, and means that "lizards inhabited the planet since at least 240 million years ago," study co-author Tiago Simoes of the University of Alberta in Canada told AFP.


Texas teen, girlfriend accused in his jeweler father's death

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:11

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The son of an Austin-area jeweler and the teen's girlfriend are charged with hiring someone to kill his father, who was gunned down in March during a home break-in, authorities said Wednesday.


People Now: Amber Rose Opens Up About Her Breast Reduction — Watch the Full Episode

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:08

Your latest celebrity news and top headlines for May 30th on "People Now".


U.S. says in talks with Turkey on YPG withdrawal from Syria's Manbij

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:55

By Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay ANKARA (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Wednesday denied media reports that a deal had been reached between the United States and Turkey on a three-step plan for withdrawing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from Syria's Manbij. "We don't have any agreements yet with the government of Turkey," department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement in Washington. "We're continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern," she said, adding that American and Turkish officials had met in Ankara last week for talks on the issue.


Trump weighs in on Roseanne: Where's my apology from ABC?

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:34

President Trump on Wednesday responded to the ABC’s firing of Roseanne Barr over a tweet that included with a racist slur against former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. And, true to form, the president made it about him.


US televangelist appeals for donations for $54 million private jet

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:15

Jesse Duplantis, 68, whose Christian ministry is based in Louisiana, made the appeal for a Dassault Falcon 7X jet in a video for his followers. Jesse Duplantis Ministries has already gone through three private planes, "burning them up for the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "He said, 'Jesse, you wanna come up where I'm at?'" Duplantis said.


Journalist Arkady Babchenko's 'Murder' Faked By Ukraine To Uncover Russian Plot

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:11

Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin,


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