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At the start of Wednesday's news conference, Gritsak announced the journalist's murder had been solved and called the day Babchenko's "third birthday".

"Also, I would like to express big thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine for saving my life".

Neither Babchenko nor Ukrainian Security Service chief Vasyl Gritsak gave details of the sting operation or how they made his wife believe he was dead.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the worldwide affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, compared Ukraine's actions to Britain accusing Moscow of being behind the nerve gas poisonings of a Russian former spy and his daughter in England.

His wife, according to the version that was reported Tuesday, had found his body after he had been shot several times by the entrance to their apartment in Kiev. "I'm sorry you had to go through this but there was no other way".

"I am sorry, but there were no options here", Babchenko said during the press conference.

Russia's foreign ministry has soundly denied any involvement in a plan to kill Babchenko, saying the entire spectacle is merely "fanning anti-Russian hysteria".

"I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance".

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.

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Ukraine also faced a backlash from worldwide journalism figures.

Ukraine and Russian Federation traded accusations after Babchenko was reported to have been shot dead in Kiev, in a killing that sent shivers through the journalistic communities in both countries. He also promised he would drive an American military truck through central Moscow.

His writings drew criticism from many ordinary Russian citizens as well.

He wrote in a post in 2016 that he had "no sympathy or pity" for the victims of a plane crash carrying Russia's Red Army choir to Syria.

As a reporter he covered a conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian insurgents in the east of the former Soviet country following the annexation of Crimea.

Babchenko fled Russian Federation in 2017, writing on social media he no longer felt safe living there.

"Like many dissidents I am used to abuse, but a recent campaign against me was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee", he wrote for British newspaper The Guardian in February 2017.

The initial news sent shock waves across Ukraine and Russian Federation, where dozens of journalists have been targeted for assassination for their work.

"I wonder if MFA Russia is satisfied now. Five Ukrainian soldiers are now dead and 23 have been wounded", spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a press briefing on May 22. This has been one of the most violent weeks of the year. "The Kremlin controls the violence in eastern Ukraine and could bring this violence to an end tomorrow if the Kremlin wanted to do that".


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