The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has rejected a Ukrainian allegation that Moscow was behind the murder of a dissident Russian journalist in Kiev, calling it part of an anti-Russian campaign, according to Moscow #media reports.
Arkady Babchenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in Ukraine on Tuesday, where he had fled into exile after a series of threats. Police in Kiev said the high-profile murder may have been linked to his reporting.
Lavrov said it was “very sad” that Moscow has been accused of the murder, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Ukrainian prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, said in a social media posting late on Tuesday he was convinced that what he called “the Russian totalitarian machine” had not forgiven Babchenko for what Groysman called his honesty.
Babchenko, a veteran Russian war correspondent, was shot three times in the back as he left his apartment to buy bread. He was found bleeding by his wife. Babchenko, 41, died in the ambulance to the hospital, a government official said.
The killing appeared to be targeted. The gunman had apparently laid in wait for him outside his apartment. The head of Ukraine’s police force said that two motives were being considered: his “professional work and civil position”. Police on Tuesday evening had not named a suspect, but did post a sketch of a bearded man in a baseball hat.
Babchenko had grown highly critical of the Russian government in recent years. He criticised Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for the separatists of south-east Ukraine. He left Russia in February 2017, writing that it was “a country I no longer feel safe in”.
Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner, described Babchenko’s murder as “shocking”. “I have no doubt that the cause of this monstrous crime was Arkady’s public political position and his professional journalistic activities,” Navalny wrote.
“Arkasha would shoot straight from the hip every day in such a brazen manner that even those close to him felt uneasy sometimes,” wrote Pavel Kanygin, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta, referring to his friend by his nickname.
“This is a terror attack against the journalism community both in Russia and Ukraine. The killers attacked all of us by choosing the most sincere, noisy and brave one, the one who is in the public eye.”