Arkady Babchenko has thanked everyone who was mourning his death
Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko, who was reported to have been shot dead on Wednesday, has strolled into a news conference where he declared “I’m still alive”.
Vasily Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian security service, told the media gathered in Kiev that the agency faked Mr Babchenko’s death to stop a Russian plan to kill him.
Moscow said it was happy that Mr Babchenko was alive after all.
Kiev had said the 41-year-old Russian journalist, a strong critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot multiple times in the back at his apartment building while on his way to buy bread.
Arkady Babchenko was reported dead on Wednesday – only to reappear
They had claimed he was found bleeding by his wife and had died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
But, remarkably, Mr Babchenko showed up at the news conference.
To applause and gasps of surprise, the journalist apologised for what people had been through, and thanked everyone who had been mourning his death.
“I would like to apologise for what you have all had to go through,” Mr Babchenko, who looked on the verge of tears at times, told reporters.
“I’m sorry, but there was no other way of doing it.”
In particular he said sorry to his wife, who detectives had earlier said they were unable to speak to because she was suffering from shock.
Arkady Babchenko appearing at a news conference after his death had been reported
“Separately, I want to apologise to my wife for the hell that she has been through.,” he said.
He thanked the Ukrainian security service for saving his life and said the operation had been planned for two months.
People gather outside the apartment building after claims Arkady Babchenko was shot
Mr Gritsak says investigators have identified a Ukrainian citizen who allegedly was paid $40,000 (£30,000) by the Russian security service to organise and carry out the killing. That citizen was also apparently asked to buy weapons and ammunition.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has promised to provide protection to Mr Babchenko and his family going forward.
The leader added that Ukrainian authorities are becoming stronger in countering what he termed “Russian aggression”.
Flowers have been left at the apartment building where Mr Babchenko lives
Ukraine had released an image of a man wanted in connection with the killing.
A statement from the Ukrainian embassy in London said “the perpetrator of a crime” had been arrested and that Ukraine will “bring organisers to justice”.