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Kremlin critic fatally shot in back while on way to buy bread in Ukraine

Image: Arkady Babchenko
Journalist Arkadiy Babchenko was fatally shot at his home in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Copyright Stepan Franko
Copyright Stepan Franko
By Associated Press with NBC News World News
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Investigators would look at "Russian spy agencies' efforts to get rid of those who are trying to tell the truth about what is going on," a lawmaker said.


KIEV, Ukraine — A Russian journalist harshly critical of the Kremlin was shot and killed in the Ukrainian capital Tuesday.

The national police said they are assuming Arkady Babchenko was targeted because of his work.

Babchenko's wife found him bleeding at their apartment building in Kiev and called an ambulance, but he died on the way to a hospital, according to authorities.

Police said he had multiple gunshot wounds on his back.

Arkadiy Babchenko.
Arkadiy Babchenko.Inna Sokolovska

"The first and the most obvious version is his professional activities," Kiev Police Chief Andriy Krishchenko said in televised comments.

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

Babchenko, 41, was scathingly critical of the Kremlin's policies, assailing Moscow's annexation of Crimea, its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the Russian campaign in Syria.

Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker who serves as an adviser to the interior minister, said on Facebook that investigators would be looking at "Russian spy agencies' efforts to get rid of those who are trying to tell the truth about what is going on in Russia and Ukraine."

Gerashchenko said Babchenko's killer was waiting for him on the staircase inside the journalist's building and shot him in the back as he was going out to buy bread.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine" in Ukraine.

Another renowned journalist, Pavel Sheremet, a native of Belarus who had worked for Russian media outlets in the past, was killed in a car bombing in central Kiev in July 2016. The case has remained unsolved.

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

Some of his articles and posts outraged many Russians. In one, 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. Several Russian lawmakers even called for stripping Babchenko of his citizenship over the comment.

Babchenko left Russia in February 2017, saying he was receiving threats and concerned he might be jailed. He moved to Kiev last fall.

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