Reporters Without Borders slams Arkady Babchenko action as ‘pathetic stunt’

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Reporters Without Borders condemned Wednesday the staging of a murder of an anti-Kremlin journalist in Ukraine as a “pathetic stunt”.

Christophe Deloire, the head of the Paris-based media watchdog, told AFP that while he was relieved that Arkady Babchenko was alive, “it is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive... for the stunt”.

The war correspondent appeared at a press conference in Kiev less than 24 hours after the authorities there said that he had been gunned down in the stairwell of his apartment building in an apparent contract-style killing.

Babchenko, who has repeatedly faced death threats for his reporting, said he took part in the “special operation” to help catch the alleged mastermind of a real plot to kill him.

But Deloire insisted the fake set-up “would not help the cause of press freedom. All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations,” he said, referring to the killings of a number of the Kremlin's critics in Ukraine in recent years.

“It is the state lying, even if it was brief,” he added.

“It is always deeply dangerous that states play with the facts -- moreover on the backs of journalists.”

The head of Ukraine's security service Vasyl Grytsak said the set-up had foiled”a cynical plot and (allowed his officers to) document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime.”

He said a hitman was paid to carry out the killing after being recruited by Russian special forces.

Former Russian state television journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed by a car bomb in July 2016 while driving near his home in Kiev.

He had begun his career in his home country Belarus but left after confronting authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

His murder is still unsolved.

Ukraine sits at 101st out of 180 countries in the annual index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

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