Russian journalist shot dead in Kiev: police

Kiev (AFP) –


A Russian war correspondent who fled to Kiev after criticising Moscow's role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine was shot dead Tuesday in the Ukrainian capital, police said.

Arkadi Babchenko was the second Kremlin critic living in Kiev to be killed in less than two years, and police said they suspected the crime was linked to his work.

Pavel Cheremet, a dual Russian and Belarusian citizen, died when his car exploded in the centre of Kiev in July 2016 in still unexplained circumstances.

Police spokesman Yaroslav Trakalo said Babchenko, 41, was found bleeding by his wife after she heard shooting, adding that he died in an ambulance en route to hospital.

A colleague, journalist Osman Pashayev, wrote on Facebook that Babchenko had received three gunshots to the back in the stairwell of his building.

"The leading and obvious line of inquiry is that of his professional activities," Kiev police chief Andriy Kryshchenko told Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Babchenko fought in Chechnya's two separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s before becoming a respected journalist who was extremely critical of the Kremlin.

He wrote about the wars in a book published in France titled "La Couleur de la Guerre" (The Colour of War).

Before leaving Moscow he worked for the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the liberal Echo of Moscow radio station.

He covered the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists that has killed more than 10,000 people in four years, accusing the Kremlin of providing military support to the rebels.

Babchenko left Russia in February 2017 after allegedly receiving threats, living first in the Czech Republic, then in Israel, before moving to Kiev.

Babchenko had hosted a programme on Ukrainian private television ATR for the past year, his colleague Pashayev said.

An aide to the Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Guerachchenko, pointed the finger at Moscow, writing on Facebook: "The Putin regime targets those it cannot break or intimidate."

The Russian foreign ministry meanwhile demanded that the "Ukrainian authorities deploy every effort to carry out an effective inquiry."

It added on its official Facebook page: "Bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine for the Kiev regime."

A former Russian lawmaker who went into exile in Ukraine was gunned down in the centre of Kiev in March 2017.