Russia rejects claims it was behind anti-Putin journalist’s killing

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Moscow, May 30 (IANS) Russia on Wednesday rejected accusations that it was behind the murder of a journalist who was openly opposed to President Vladimir Putin and had been forced to flee the country in 2017 after receiving threats.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had claimed Russia was responsible for the death of Arkady Babchenko, 41, who was shot multiple times outside his home in Kiev on Tuesday evening and died before he got to the hospital.

“I am certain that the Russian totalitarian machine could not accept his honesty and principles. He was a true friend of Ukraine who told the world the truth about Russian aggression,” Groysman had said on Facebook.

However, Russian Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov told Interfax that the accusations were “stupid” and said that Ukrainian authorities were “delirious and deliberately trying to provoke Moscow”.

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Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “We demand that the Ukrainian authorities make every effort to promptly investigate.”

“Bloody crimes and total impunity had become routine for the Kiev regime”, it said, while offering condolences to Babchenko’s family and friends.

A spokesperson from the European Union’s diplomatic service (EEAS) said an investigation into Babchenko’s death had to be launched so that those responsible could be made accountable.

Babchenko was found bleeding at the entrance to his block of flats by his wife and died in an ambulance. He was reportedly shot several times in the back, the BBC reported.

Ukrainian lawmaker Anton Herashchenko said the journalist had gone out to buy some bread and that the killer was waiting for him. Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko said they suspected Babchenko was killed because of his “professional activities”.

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Babchenko had grown highly critical of the Russian government in recent years. He criticised Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for the separatists of southeast Ukraine. He left Russia in February 2017, writing that it was “a country I no longer feel safe in”. He moved to Prague and in August, settled in Kiev.

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny described Babchenko’s murder as “shocking”.

Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said he was horrified by Babchenko’s death and called on the Ukrainian government to conduct an immediate investigation.

–IANS

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