Arkady Babchenko, the “murdered” journalist who appeared alive at a press conference in Ukraine yesterday, has described how he staged the fake killing to avoid the fate of poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
Speaking in Kiev on Thursday, he said on the night selected for the event, he said a make-up artist had come to his apartment to give him the appearance of a shooting victim, that he was given a T-shirt with bullet holes in it to wear, and that pig’s blood was poured over him.
He said he played dead while medical teams ― who were in on the ruse ― transported him to hospital in an ambulance and then certified him as dead and sent him to a morgue.
“Once the gates of the morgue closed behind me, I was resurrected,” Babchenko said. He said he then washed off the fake blood and dressed himself in a sheet.
“Then I watched the news and saw what a great guy I had been,” he said, referring to tributes that were paid to him in the media after his death was widely reported.
Asked about his next steps now, he said: “I plan to get some decent sleep, maybe get drunk, and then wake up in two or three days.”
A day later, Babchenko appeared in public alive, and Ukrainian security officials said they had faked his death to thwart and expose what they said was a plot to assassinate him.
But the 41-year-old has been subject to intense criticism over the audacious plot over fears it will provide Russia with a pretext for dismissing future accusations levelled against them.
Babchenko hit back saying that he went along with the ruse organised by Ukrainian security officials because he feared for his life.
“Everyone who says this undermines trusts in journalists: what would you do in my place, if they came to you and said there is a hit out on you?” he said.
He added that when Ukrainian law enforcement approached him with information about a plot to kill him, “my first reaction was: ‘To hell with you, I want to pack a bag and disappear to the North Pole.’”
“But then I realised, where do you hide? Skripal also tried to hide.”
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in March. The British Government has accused Russia of orchestrating the plot.
Babchenko told reporters that he had he only disclosed the plan with his closest family members.
It was revealed yesterday that his wife, who reportedly found his body in a pool of blood in their flat, was left in the dark about the plot. She had been in Russia and returned to Kiev the day before his staged murder, he said today.
Babchenko went on to describe how, while sources had told him about possible threats to his life as early as 2017, he initially doubted he could be the target of an assassination attempt.
Explaining that he is now under permanent guard, the reporter said the first thing he thought about was staying alive and keeping his family safe.
On Thursday Babchenko thanked the Ukrainian security service for saving his life. The Ukrainian Security Services said the plan to thwart the attack was “normal” because “Sherlock Holmes did it”.
This appears to be a reference to the short story “The Final Problem”.