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Pro NATO journo Arkady Babchenko murder faked by Ukraine SBU

 
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:37 pm    Post subject: Pro NATO journo Arkady Babchenko murder faked by Ukraine SBU Reply with quote

After the Faked Journalist Killing in Ukraine, the Murk Deepens


The Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko said he was not privy to all the details of the operation, but went along with the faking of his death because he believed that his life was at risk.
By Neil MacFarquhar
June 1, 2018
MOSCOW — The strange cast of characters emerging in the faked assassination of a prominent Putin critic — including a Russia-hating right-wing priest and the director of a Ukrainian arms manufacturer — set the already bizarre case on a path to a murky, up-is-down mess of the sort that Ukraine seems to specialize in.

Both the priest and the executive claimed to be working for Ukraine’s intelligence services. Ukrainian officials at first denied that but, in the case of the priest, subsequently reversed themselves and admitted he had played a role. They would not say what.

Senior Ukrainian officials have been on the defensive since Wednesday, when the head of the security services and the chief prosecutor announced that they had staged the shooting death of a dissident Russian war correspondent in order to trace his would-be killers back to Russian intelligence.

However, in the absence of solid facts and real evidence about any plot to kill the dissident, Arkady Babchenko, somewhat implausible figures have emerged from the shadows, perhaps the most unlikely being the priest, who claimed he was hired to carry out the hit.

Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, once a monk and a deacon in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who used the clerical name Aristarkh, wrote on his Facebook page that he was the man who went to the authorities after being hired to kill Mr. Babchenko.

The cleric has never made a secret of his longstanding antipathy toward Russia, fighting Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine and switching his religious affiliation from the Russian Orthodox Church to a breakaway branch of the Orthodox Church that has declared its independence from Moscow.

Pictures on his Facebook page show him in green combat fatigues including a patch from the Right Sector, a Ukrainian ultranationalist organization that some, particularly the Kremlin, portray as a neo-Nazi group. In a 10-minute documentary about him that appeared online in January 2017, he called killing members of the Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine “an act of mercy.”

Given such strong and publicly avowed enmity toward Russia, it is odd to say the least that Mr. Tsimbalyuk would be selected to carry out the contract killing of a prominent Kremlin critic.

When he first posted the information on Facebook, a spokeswoman for the Security Service of Ukraine, known by its initials, S.B.U., denied that he was involved. But she later acknowledged that he had been.

Then there is the accused organizer, who Ukrainian officials said was just warming up with the killing of Mr. Babchenko and had a list of some 30 others Moscow supposedly wanted to eliminate.

That man, Boris L. Herman, was arraigned in a Kiev court on Thursday night and ordered to be held in custody for two months. Prosecutors said he had given the supposed assassin a down payment of $15,000, half what he was promised for carrying out the hit.

In court, Mr. Herman tried both to link the plot to President Vladimir V. Putin and to claim that he, too, had been working for Ukraine all along. He was first contacted six months ago, he said.

Boris L. Herman was arraigned in a Kiev court on Thursday night and ordered to be held in custody for two months. Prosecutors said he had given the supposed assassin a down payment of $15,000.

“I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine,” Mr. Herman was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine, a news agency.

Claiming that he was working for Ukrainian counterintelligence, he said he had known perfectly well that there would be no killing. A monk was hired because he would not kill an unarmed man, he said in court, and once Mr. Babchenko’s “assassination” had taken place, he said, his Russian contact had given him the list of 30 more names, which he says he passed to Ukrainian counterintelligence.

Mr. Herman’s lawyer, Eugene Solodko, wrote on Facebook that his client was the executive director of Schmeisser, a Ukrainian-German joint venture and the only arms manufacturer in Ukraine not owned by the government. It specializes in manufacturing sights for sniper rifles, he wrote.

The prosecutor’s office denied that Mr. Herman worked for Ukrainian counterintelligence.

In Moscow, Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman for Mr. Putin, said on Friday that the Kremlin had nothing to do with the operation.

“No such foundation exists in Russia,” he told reporters. “Any allegations about Russia’s possible complicity in this staging is just mudslinging. They do not correspond to reality.”

Ukraine faced continued criticism from international organizations, foreign political leaders and journalists for faking the assassination, which they said had validated the Kremlin’s all-purpose claim that it is falsely blamed for every evil in the world by a “Russophobic” West.

Aside from hinting that catching the organizer hinged on completing the killing, Ukraine has not made it clear why such a deception was necessary. Nor has it provided any evidence about accomplices or a coherent time line. Officials said the ruse was two months in the planning stages.

The level of international criticism was such that the Ukrainian Embassy in London felt compelled to issue a statement justifying what it called a “special operation.” “The hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine demands unorthodox approaches,” it said.

For his part, Mr. Babchenko said he was not privy to all the details of the investigation, but went along with the ruse because he believed his life was at risk. Numerous other critics of the Kremlin who have gone into exile in Ukraine have been murdered on the streets of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, previously.

“They probably had their reasons,” he said of the security services at a news conference on Thursday. “Maybe they wanted to collect proof that was 100 percent solid.”

A famous war reporter, Mr. Babchenko, 41, fled Russia in early 2017 after a campaign of intimidation against him following his criticism of Russian involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria. He said that Ukrainian agents approached him a month ago to tell him that the Russian security services had put out a contract on him.

“I said: ‘Great. Why have you been waiting a month?’ ” said Mr. Babchenko, who is now living under protection from the security services.

He also provided a few details about the staging of the crime last Tuesday night. Security officers took one of his sweatshirts and fired shots through it, then smeared it with pig’s blood after he put it back on.

Taken to a hospital after his wife, who was in on the plot, summoned an ambulance, he was first wheeled into an intensive care unit and pronounced dead, then taken to the morgue. It was only then that he stopped playing dead and began watching the tributes to him pour in on television.

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