Germany demands Ukraine explain itself for faked murder of journalist

Berlin/Kiev - By Christiane Jacke and Peter Spinella,
- Germany on Friday demanded more details from Ukraine about why it fabricated the murder of a Russian journalist, a ruse that Ukrainian authorities have said was necessary to thwart an actual attempt on his life.

"These are very serious accusations. Therefore the Ukrainian authorities would do well to substantiate them with plausible evidence," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin on Friday.
The Ukrainian authorities have not revealed exactly why they needed to fake the death of journalist Arkady Babchenko, a critic of the Kremlin, except that it helped them to wrap up the case.
A Ukrainian citizen has been arrested on suspicion of being recruited by Russia to arrange dozens of contract killings. The suspect is said to have made an initial payment to a presumed hit man to murder Babchenko.
Attempting to kill a journalist is also an attack on the freedom of the press, Seibert said. "Because the allegations are severe, it can be expected that now, of course, they should be substantiated with evidence."
Many German government officials have been surprised at the "way the whole thing went down," Seibert said.
The Kremlin earlier in the day condemned the fabrication and demanded action by Europe's leading human rights organization, the Council of Europe.
"Using a journalist to mislead the public casts a shadow over the entire journalistic community and undermines trust in the media," the Kremlin's human rights council said.
It was an "inhuman dramatization of his own murder," the Kremlin said, also addressing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The Council of Europe and the OSCE should use their power to "influence the Ukrainian authorities for the purpose of normalizing the atmosphere for media in the country," the statement said.
Ukrainian authorities had said Babchenko, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, was fatally shot outside his home in Kiev on Tuesday and that Russia was responsible for the crime. The next day he showed up alive at a press conference.
International journalism organizations denounced the trick.
Reporters Without Borders expressed its "deepest indignation," adding: "It is always very dangerous for a government to play with the facts, especially using journalists for their fake stories."
To such critics, Babchenko said he wished that if they faced the same situation, they would "adhere to their high moral principles and die proudly with their heads up high," according to a post on Facebook.
The suspect, Boris German, is accused of paying an acquaintance to kill Babchenko, the Interfax news agency reported.
German admitted to a court in Kiev that he had been asked by an acquaintance who lives in Moscow to perform some intelligence-gathering work, the report said.
The work involved tracing international money transfers and identifying militant groups and people with political influence, German was cited as saying.
Babchenko told reporters in Kiev that he helped Ukrainian authorities to stage the murder scene with pig's blood.
"It was decided that the murderer came into the building, and as soon as I opened the doors, he shot me in the back," Babchenko said in comments carried by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.
"They took my shirt, put it on a mannequin and shot it. Then I put on the shirt and fell," he said. "The blood was real, pig's. They poured blood on me. I took some into my mouth and spat it out."
A photograph was circulated in the media, showing Babchenko lying face down in a pool of blood.

Friday, June 1st 2018
By Christiane Jacke and Peter Spinella,

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