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article imageKiev seeks to reassure West over staging of journalist's murder

By AFP     Jun 1, 2018 in World

Ukrainian law enforcement chiefs on Friday met Western diplomats to brief them on Kiev's decision to stage a contract-style killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, which has prompted widespread criticism.

Around a dozen diplomats went to Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office for a meeting behind closed doors that lasted nearly two hours, AFP journalists saw.

The diplomats were told that staging Babchenko's murder over more than 12 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday -- with law enforcement officials and even the country's president issuing false statements -- allowed them to "prevent the journalist's death," the Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement.

The Ukrainian authorities were also able to "fully document the organiser's criminal actions," gaining information on "possible potential victims, against whom it is likely terror attacks and murders were being planned," the statement said.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko had announced the meeting on television on Thursday, saying that he wanted to "explain everything that could be explained given the undercover nature of the investigation".

He told diplomats his officers had carried out a "large-scale and complex operation" and the public would be informed of the details as far as possible during the criminal investigation.

Diplomats attended from the Group of Seven countries -- Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Japan -- as well as Australia, Norway, and the European Union and Council of Europe.

Vasyl Grytsak, the head of Ukraine's SBU security service which organised the special operation also took part.

Ukrainian police announced on Tuesday evening that Babchenko, a Russian emigre journalist known for his outspoken anti-Kremlin views, had been shot dead, only for him to reappear alive and well at a news conference at the SBU headquarters the following day.

The SBU and the Prosecutor-General's Office then revealed that the announcement of his death, which prompted a grief-stricken reaction around the world, had been made as part of a sting operation.

Kiev has said the move was justified to foil a real plot to assassinate Babchenko and confirm the link between the killer and the organiser.

It claims the murder plot was organised by the Russian secret services and envisaged killing not only Babchenko but also some 30 others.

The way the murder was staged has attracted much criticism, particularly from organisations representing journalists, which questioned the need for such extreme tactics.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was visiting Kiev on Friday, said ahead of his visit that it was "indispensable to shed light on what happened" and called on Ukraine to clarify the situation in order to "encourage trust".

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said at a briefing in Moscow on Friday that Kiev's actions "have definitively undermined trust in Ukrainian sources of information, including official ones".

He noted however that "We are in principle glad that Babchenko is alive."

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