Prominent Russian journalist who criticised Kremlin shot dead in Kiev

Russian President Vladimir Putin right congratulates popular Russian singer Iosif Kobzon before the gala to mark Kobzon's 80th birthday at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow Russia Wednesday Sept. 20 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev Sputnik Kremlin

Russian journalist Babchenko, critic of Kremlin, shot dead in Ukraine

Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who voiced criticism about Russia's "wars of aggression" in Georgia, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria, was reportedly shot in the back at his Kyiv apartment on Tuesday.

He had been scathingly critical of the Kremlin in recent years. He then startled everyone there by inviting the 41-year-old reporter into the room.

Babchenko, a prominent war correspondent, was extremely critical of Russia's annexation of Crimea, and was forced to flee Russian Federation in February 2017 because of threats to him and his family.

Babchenko was 19 when he was sent to fight in Russia's first Chechen campaign in the 1990s as a conscript.

Ilya Ponomarev, a former Russian lawmaker who also moved to Ukraine, said Wednesday that Babchenko continued being threatened after he settled last fall in Kiev, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station.

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".

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Before ushering Babchenko into the room, Gritsak said the Ukrainian allegedly recruited by Russian agents to kill the reporter had hired an acquaintance to be the gunman.

Ukrainian law enforcement confirmed his death in a Facebook post, written in Ukrainian.

Police said they believe Babchenko was likely targeted because of his work. He went on to write for a number of outlets, including the newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

"Some called for me to be stripped of citizenship, others are making an online game where you can beat me to death", he said.

Two years ago Pavel Sheremet, a Belarussian journalist known for his criticism of his home country's leadership and his friendship with the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, was blown up in a vehicle bomb in central Kiev. In 2017, Babchenko left Russian Federation, after which he lived in the Czech Republic and Israel, in August 2017 he moved to Kiev, where he conducted a program on the television channel ATR. He travelled to the conflict in Ukraine, which continues to claim lives, and criticized the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines passenger flight MH17, which killed 298 people.

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