Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, widely reported to have been assassinated in Kiev on Tuesday, has turned up alive at a press conference.
In an extraordinary development, Babchenko, a high-profile critic of the Kremlin, appeared live on Ukrainian TV.
He said he was informed a month ago that he was the target of a plot.
The head of Ukraine’s security services, Vasyl Hrytsak, said the assassination was “ordered by Russian security services”.
Ukrainian police said that they had made one arrest in connection with the alleged assassination plot.
There were gasps and applause as Babchenko entered the room for the press conference on Wednesday. He thanked the Ukrainian security services for saving his life.
“I have buried many friends and colleagues many times and I know the sickening feeling,” he said. “I am sorry you had to experience it. But there was no other way.”
He said he had been in constant contact with the security services over the course of the past month, adding that he thought they had been planning the operation for up to two months.
Reports of his death said the journalist was found by his wife at the entrance to his block of flats, bleeding, shot several times in the back, and that he had died in an ambulance.
It was not clear if his wife Olechka was aware that his death had been faked. He apologised to her at the press conference. “Olechka, I am terribly sorry,” he said, “but there were no other options.”
Mr Hrytsak alleged that Russian security services had recruited a Ukrainian citizen to find hitmen within the country. He said the citizen approached several acquaintances, including war veterans, offering $30,000 for the contract killing, one of whom revealed the plot to the security services.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the staged murder was done for “propagandistic effect”, and that it was happy to hear Babchenko was alive, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the country would offer protection to Babchenko. “It is unlikely that Moscow will calm down. I’ve given an order to provide Arkady and his family with protection,” he said on Twitter.
A well-known Kremlin critic, Babchenko stood in unofficial elections in Russia organised by the opposition in 2012 and denounced Russia’s actions in Syria and eastern Ukraine.
He fled Russia in 2017 after receiving death threats over a post he made on social media.
Arkady Babchenko: ‘Murdered’ Russian journalist is alive