Babchenko: I watched news of my death at the morgue

Revealing details of the plot, Arkady Babchenko said pig’s blood and make-up had been used to make it look as if he had been shot dead.

The journalist said that an officer had shot holes into his shirt to make the wounds look convincing.

He said: “In the very end I made that shirt with bullet holes in it and I laid on the floor. It was real pig’s blood on me.

“They have poured blood over me, I took some of it in my mouth and let it out. They tucked some blood clots into the bullet holes. And I was dead.”

Once he had been taken to a morgue in an ambulance, he changed clothes and watched reports of his violent “death” on TV.

He said: “The doctor called and proclaimed me dead, the forensic expert recorded it. But then we decided to end this in the morgue.

“We went to the morgue. I was lying there pretending that I was the murder victim, like a dead person. They came to the morgue, they put me on the tray, the doors were closed behind me and then I was resurrected.

“I am tired. I only slept for a few hours this whole time.”

Kiev police reported on Tuesday that Mr Babchenko, who settled in Kiev in the autumn and worked as a host for the Crimean Tatar TV station, had been shot inside his apartment building and discovered there by his wife.

He shared information about the top-secret operation with his closest relatives only, the 41-year-old said, admitting that even his wife thought he was dead.

Mr Babchenko said that he feared the elaborate operation would fall through the entire time, and said he “only stopped being afraid at the morgue”.

Initially, Mr Babchenko said he doubted whether he was a target for assassination, adding that he could have refused to take part in the ruse when Ukranian authorities approached him about a month ago.

He agreed of his own volition, he said.

Mr Babchenko, who fled Russia in February 2017, said his sources had told him last year about possible threats to his life.

He is now living in a safe house for protection.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has described the plot as “strange to say the least”.

The head of Ukraine’s security service, Vasyl Grytsak, said it was justified because it meant that he and his team were “able to foil a cynical plot and document how the Russian security service was planning for this crime”.

Mr Gritsak has also said a Ukrainian citizen who was allegedly paid $40,000 by the Russian security service to organise and carry out the hit had been arrested. The man in turn allegedly hired an acquaintance to be the gunman.

Russia has said the “true motives are beginning to be revealed for this staging, which is totally obviously yet another anti-Russian provocation”.

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