Faked murder of Putin critic uncovers Russian hit list of 47 people, Ukraine claims

'The investigation received a list of 47 people who could be the next victims of terrorists', says Ukraine General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko

Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko revealed to still be alive

Ukraine has claimed its staged murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko led to the discovery of a hit list of 47 people Russia planned to kill abroad.

The Kiev authorities have said the controversial fake shooting of the exiled journalist was necessary to protect him and dozens of others targeted by a genuine Russian plot.

Ukrainian officials reported on Tuesday that Mr Babchenko, a Kremlin critic, had been gunned down in his apartment building in Kiev.

However he appeared in public alive just a day later – with Ukrainian state security officials admitting they faked his death to expose what they described as a Russian plot to assassinate him.

Ukraine’s allegations came under fire from Russia, and the Kiev authorities have been criticised for using the same kind of stunt Ukraine often accuses Russia of.

At a meeting on Friday, General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the few Ukrainian officials who knew about the plot in advance, briefed the ambassadors of the European Union, the United States, and other countries on the decision to stage the contract-style killing.

In a statement after the meeting, Mr Lutsenko said faking the murder was necessary because it allowed Ukrainian investigators to obtain more information about the list of people targeted and about who had ordered the murder.

“The investigation received a list of 47 (!) people who could be the next victims of terrorists,” as a result of the ruse, he wrote on Facebook.

He did not provide any names but said the list included prominent Ukrainian and Russian journalists.

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (centre), who was reported murdered in the Ukrainian capital on May 29, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko (right) and head of the state security service Vasily Gritsak

The 47 figure is higher than the 30 people, including Mr Babchenko, whom Ukraine originally said it believed were targets.

The investigation also gleaned important evidence linking the plot to Russian intelligence services, which would be divulged later, Mr Lutsenko said.

Mr Babchenko, who has faced criticism for the staged murder, said he used pig’s blood and a makeup artist to stage his own death because he feared for his life after agents told him Russian security services had ordered his assassination.

The 41-year -old said a make-up artist visited his apartment to make him look as though he had been shot.

The journalist was given a T-shirt with bullet holes in it to wear and pig’s blood was poured over him.

He said he played dead while medics – who were in on the ruse – transported him to hospital in an ambulance, certified him as dead and sent him to a morgue.

Mr Babchenko said even his wife had believed he was dead.

One senior EU country diplomat, who attended Friday's meeting, said Mr Lutsenko had given a convincing explanation to justify the means Ukraine had employed.

“I'm happy, others are happier than before,” the diplomat told Reuters, adding that Mr Lutsenko did “acknowledge that the media reaction came as a surprise and that side should have been handled better”.

Separately two television presenters based in Ukraine, one Russian and one Ukrainian, disclosed publicly that the Ukrainian authorities had shown them evidence of being on Russia's hit list and that they were now living under state protection.

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