(JTA) — A Russian journalist reported to have been killed in Ukraine said he faked his death to help police foil an assassination plot.
Arkady Babchenko, a critic of the Kremlin, was said to have been shot dead in his apartment building in the capital city of Kiev on Tuesday. Ukraine blamed Russia for the “death” of Babchenko, whose maternal grandmother was Jewish and who had lived in Israel for a year.
At a news conference Wednesday, Babchenko apologized to his wife and all those who believed he had been killed, but said the secrecy had been necessary, Ria Novosti reported.
“I would like to apologize for what you all had to go through … because I’ve buried friends and colleagues many times, and I know it’s a sickening-emetic feeling when you have to bury your colleagues,” he said. “Also I would like to apologize to my wife for the hell she went through in those two days. Olechka, I’m sorry, but there were no alternatives here.”
Ukraine’s Security Service said it staged the murder in an attempt to foil a Russian plot to kill Babchenko. The chief of the security service, Vasyl Hrytsak, said the operation was planned for two months.
Police have a Ukrainian man in custody in connection with the alleged plot. Neither the police nor Babchenko say how staging his death helped advance the investigation.
Writing on Twitter, the security service said it decided to conduct the operation to collect evidence of terrorist activity by the Russian special services on Ukrainian territory.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegation as a conspiracy.
The Ukrainian police said they were searching for the man they believed to be responsible for the assassination and even released a sketch of the suspected killer.
Russia and Ukraine and proxy forces were plunged into armed conflict following a revolution that began in 2013 in Kiev and ended with the toppling of Kremlin ally and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.