MADRID: Ukrainian President Petro Porochenko defended staging the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko to foil what Kiev said was an assassination plot by Moscow, saying in an interview published Tuesday (Jun 5) that it was needed to "protect freedom of the press".
"Those who criticise us would they have preferred that the Russian secret services kill this journalist?" Porochenko asked in an interview published in top-selling Spanish newspaper El Pais when asked about the faking of Babchenko's death with the help of Ukrainian secret services.
"If we must defend freedom of the press, if we must protect journalists, we must employ these type of techniques," he added.
Ukrainian police announced on May 29 that Babchenko was shot dead in Kiev in a contract-style killing, but the following day Ukrainian secret services held a news conference where the journalist appeared alive and well.
Babchenko's staged killing fooled the world's media and led to press freedom groups raising fears about the impact it could have on the work of journalists everywhere.
Some said the staged death could only lead to more accusations of "fake news", at a time when the distinction between credible and non-credible sources is becoming ever more crucial.
The Kremlin has dismissed the story as "bizarre" and denied accusations that it had attempted to assassinate Babchenko.
Ukrainian secret services have arrested the person who was going to carry out Babchenko's killing, and Porochenko told El Pais that "very soon" they will show where he received "the money, the orders, the lists of journalists to kill".
Asked about an alleged list of 30 journalists targeted in Ukraine and the European Union by Moscow, Porochenko said he has not personally informed other governments but said secret services were cooperating with them.
Porochenko was in Madrid on Monday on an official visit where he met with Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.