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Anti-Putin Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko shot dead in Ukraine capital 

UPDATE, 30 May: Following publication of this article, it was revealed that Mr Babchenko had not in fact died as reported. Full details can be found here. 

A prominent Russian journalist known for his sharp criticism of Vladimir Putin has been murdered in the Ukrainian capital. 

Arkady Babchenko, 41, was found by his wife in a pool of blood at their Kiev apartment on Tuesday evening. He had been shot in the back. 

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He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital, Ukrainian police said. 

Babchenko, who became one of Russia’s most famous war correspondents after writing a memoir of his service as a conscript and later professional solider in the Chechen wars, went into exile in 2017 saying he had received multiple threats to himself and his family. 

He had emerged as a bitter online critic of the Putin government in recent years, posting regular blogs attacking the Kremlin on his Facebook page. 

Babchenko had fled Russia over fears to his safetyCredit:
Akrady Babchenko/Facebook

He had in turn been attacked by pro-Kremlin and nationalist politicians and activists, who have in the past called him a "fifth columnist."

Babchenko appeared to reference even more serious threats just hours before he died.

In a Tweet posted Monday afternoon, he wrote: "When the president’s representative openly posts an offer to have you killed."

The Tweet linked to a Facebook post from 2014, later deleted, in which he said Marina Yudenich, who formerly worked for the Kremlin, had called on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to " invite me for tea."

Mr Kadyrov is widely believed to be linked to the murders of several prominent Kremlin critics, including the 2015 assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow. 

Babchenko’s murder comes two years after Pavel Sheremet, a prominent liberal Belarussian journalist, was killed in a car bombing in Kiev. Sheremet’s murder has not been solved. 

In October last year Amina Okueva, a Chechen rebel fighter who had fought on the Ukrainian side against Russian forces in east Ukraine, was gunned down in Kiev. Her husband, Adam Osmaev, had  survived a previous assassination attempt in the city. 

Ukrainian police officers guard in the entrance to Babchenko's home in Kiev after his body was found

Much of Babchenko’s ire for the Kremlin sprang from his experiences on its battlefields. 

His war memoir, One Soldier’s War in Chechnya, is a harrowing and brutally honest account of the chaos and dehumanising horror of the first and second Chechen wars in the 1990s.  

As a war correspondent, he went on to write angrily about the human toll of the Kremlin’s military entanglements in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. 

His positions did not make him popular with nationalists and pro-Kremlin politicians, and he later described being "used to abuse."

Arkady Babchenko served in and reported from several of Russia's modern wars, and became a bitter critic of the Kremlin's military entanglementsCredit:
 Vitaliy Nosach/AP

He became the focus of what he called a particular vicious campaign of "political intimidation" after he wrote on Facebook that he had "neither sympathy or pity" for dozens of members of a Russian army choir who died in an air crash en route to Syria in 2016.  

Several pro-Kremlin politicians made public calls for him to be publicly punished, including by being stripped of citizenship, deported, or having his property confiscated. 

"It was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee," he wrote after he had left Russia. 

He lived in Prague and Israel before moving to Kiev last summer. 

Babchenko’s life was defined by his work as a war correspondent to the last. 

In his last Tweet, posted just ten hours before his body was found, he recalled how he had narrowly escaped death while covering the war in Ukraine in 2014. 

"Four years ago General Kulchitsky refused to take me on this helicopter because it was full," he wrote.

An hour after this photograph was taken it crashed. Fourteen people died. But I was lucky. It turned out to be my second birthday." 

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