Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko shot and killed in Kiev

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A prominent Russian journalist and vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin has died after being shot in Kiev, Ukraine‘s capital.

Ukrainian police said Arkady Babchenko’s wife found him bleeding at their apartment building and called an ambulance, but the 41-year-old died on the way to a hospital.

He had multiple gunshot wounds on his back.

Ukrainian police investigating Babchenko’s killing said they suspect the crime is linked to his work.

“The leading and obvious line of inquiry is that of his professional activities,” Andriy Kryshchenko, Kiev police chief, told Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Babchenko, one of Russia‘s best-known war correspondents, left his countryin February 2017 fearing for his life after making comments on social media about the Russian bombing of Syria and over his characterisation of Russia as an aggressor towards Ukraine.

He served in the Russian army during the first separatist war in Chechnya during the 1990s and later became a journalist. He worked as a military correspondent for several Russian media outlets.

In the autumn, Babchenko moved to Kiev, where he worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station, ATR.

In Russia, officials and politicians criticised Ukrainian authorities for their alleged failure to protect journalists.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that “bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine” in Ukraine, while Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Kremlin Human Rights Council, said Babchenko’s slaying was a “clear provocation”.

“The Russian government has been quick to swing into gear about this,” said Al Jazerera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Russia’s capital, Moscow.

“The Foreign ministry is saying it expects Kiev to investigate this quickly and transparently. It also wants an international organisation to take control of the investigation. There are also comments here from the investigative committee saying it has already launched a criminal case.”

‘A friend of Ukraine’

Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he was “horrified” by Babchenko’s death.

“I call on Ukraine authorities to conduct immediate & full investigation,” he said on Twitter.

Some of Babchenko’s articles and posts outraged many Russians. In one Facebok post, he said he felt no regret about the deaths of Russian army choir members and others from a December 2016 plane crash as they were heading to perform before Russian troops in Syria.

He was denounced by pro-Putin politicians and some called for stripping Babchenko of his Russian citizenship. 

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“I didn’t call for anything or insult anyone. I just reminded my readers that Russia was indiscriminately bombing Aleppo, without recognising that dozens of children were dying in those bombs, their photographs making their way around the world. I also called Russia an aggressor,” Babchenko wrote in an article published in The Guardian.

“After all these wars and deaths, I felt only one thing when I heard that the representatives of Russia’s military had died: indifference. But for some, expressing this on Facebook was not patriotic enough. And so it began.”

Among the plethora of threats and accusations, a “pro-government ultranationalist” TV channel had listed Babchenko as number 10 on its list of “Top 100 Russophobes”.

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 car bomb in central Kiev.

“Putin’s regime is aimed at those who cannot be broken or intimidated,” Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker and adviser to the interior minister, wrote on Facebook.

“Today in Kiev on the threshold of the apartment where he lived, a famous Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was shot and killed, a consistent opponent of the Putin regime and a friend of Ukraine.”

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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