Fatally Shot Russian Journalist Was Targeted For His Work, Ukrainian Police Say

May 30, 2018
Originally published on May 30, 2018 11:56 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. A Russian journalist who had been fiercely critical of President Vladimir Putin was shot and killed in the Ukrainian capital Kiev last night. The Kremlin has denied any involvement. But as NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow, Ukrainian police consider his professional activity as the most likely motive for this murder.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Arkady Babchenko was shot and killed in Kiev, where he thought he and his family were safe from the threats he had received in Moscow. The 41-year-old Russian journalist is believed to have been shot in the back after returning from the store to buy a loaf of bread. His wife found him in a pool of blood, and he died on the way to the hospital. Babchenko isn't the first Kremlin critic to be murdered in Kiev. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman pinned responsibility on what he called the Russian totalitarian machine. Babchenko became famous as a journalist in part for his depiction of Russia's two scorched-earth campaigns against separatists in Chechnya, where he had served as a soldier. During a conference in New York two months ago, Babchenko described the Chechen War two decades ago as Russia fighting itself. He spoke through a translator.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARKADY BABCHENKO: (Through interpreter) It's like as if U.S. Air Force would bomb a city in the state of Missouri and then the National Guard would move in to kill all those who survived the bombing.

KIM: Babchenko blamed Vladimir Putin for using the Chechen War to come to power in 2000 and fomenting hatred against Russia's neighbors to justify new conflicts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BABCHENKO: (Through interpreter) The most important weapon in the hands of Mr. Putin is not submarines or missiles. It's the propaganda.

KIM: Babchenko was highly critical of Russia's military engagements in Ukraine and Syria and left Moscow last year after receiving threats from Russian lawmakers on state television. He ended up in Kiev, where he hosted his own TV show. Babchenko's survived by his wife and daughter. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.