Facts about Kremlin critics murdered in Ukraine

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A prominent Russian journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin has been gunned down in Ukraine where he had fled into exile following threats, police say.

The movie-like twist came as Gritsak convened the news conference to announce the security agency and the police had solved Babchenko's reported slaying. "Olechka, I am terribly sorry", he said, "but there were no other options".

Babchenko had been reportedly shot in the back in his apartment in Kyiv on Tuesday, dying in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Many politicians and observers including Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin suggested Russia wanted to sow chaos in the country - already wracked by a four-year conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the east - ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year. According to yesterday's official narrative, his wife found Babchenko lying lifeless on the ground, covered in blood.

One man stuck black and white photos of Babchenko on the fence of the Russian embassy in Kiev, and mourners were expected to gather in Kiev's central Maidan square on Wednesday evening.

Ukraine's Security Service said the operation foiled a real attempt against Babchenko's life.

"I will congratulate his family and all of us and Arkady Babchenko on his birthday".

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He went on to thank the Ukrainian Security Service, the SBU, for saving his life and said the most important thing was that what he called other big acts of terror had been thwarted. The city is also the site of numerous unsolved assassinations.

In December 2016, Babchenko had written a Facebook post - about the Kremlin's actions in Aleppo, Syria - which was deemed "insufficiently patriotic" by authorities.

In March of the same year, former Russian MP Denis Voronenkov was shot dead outside a hotel in Kiev.

He later became a journalist and worked as a military correspondent for several Russian media outlets.

Babchenko told the news conference he had previously fled Russian Federation after receiving death threats.

Ukrainian authorities said the goal of the staged murder was to catch the people who'd actually been planning to kill Babchenko.

Moscow, which has been at odds with Kiev since a 2014 popular revolt in Ukraine that toppled a Russian-backed government in favour of a pro-Western one, described such allegations as part of an anti-Russian smear campaign. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded with accusations of Russophobia: "This is the highest level of cynicism amid such a brutal murder, to shake the air in such a Russophobic way, instead of talking about conducting a thorough and impartial investigation".