The Kremlin on Wednesday described an allegation by Ukraine that it was behind the murder of a dissident Russian journalist in Kiev as an anti-Russian smear and demanded that Ukraine conduct a genuine investigation into the killing.
Arkady Babchenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on Tuesday in the Ukrainian capital, where he lived in exile. He fled Russia after he received threats for saying he did not mourn the victims of a Russian defence ministry plane crash in 2016.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described allegations by Ukrainian government officials that Moscow was behind the murder as "the height of cynicism" and said he hoped other countries would lean on Kiev to do more to protect journalists.
According to the Russian news agency RIA, Babchenko was shot in the back several times in the stairwell of his apartment house. The Kiev police chief told the Ukrainian television station 112 that the obvious motive for the murder was Babchenko’s professional activity.
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The Russian internet news site Kommersant, citing a source close to the Ukrainian prosecution, reported that the assassination was “almost certainly a provocation by outside parties.” But an hour later, the report had been removed from the site.
His wife was also at home when the shooting occurred, media reports said.
Babchenko was considered one of the most prominent critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. In recent years, most of his journalistic reports and opinion pieces have been published on his Facebook page, which has almost 200,000 followers.