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Investigation launched into murder of prominent Russian journalist in Kiev

A file picture provided on May 29, 2018 shows Russian journalist Arkadiy Babchenko on November 14, 2017 in Kiev. (AFP)

A prominent Russian journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin was shot dead in Ukraine where he had fled into exile following threats, police said on Tuesday, May 29.

Journalists interview beighbours outside the building of Russian journalist Arkadi Babchenko late on May 29, 2018. (AFP)

Arkady Babchenko, 41, died of his wounds in an ambulance after his wife found him covered in his blood in their home, police said, adding they suspected the murder was due to Babchenko's professional activities.

Babchenko, a former soldier in the Chechen war who became one of Russia's best-known war correspondents, had left his homeland fearing for his life after criticizing Russian policy in Ukraine and Syria.

He had been denounced by pro-government politicians in Russia over comments on social media about the Russian bombing of Aleppo in Syria's war, and over his characterisation of Russia as an aggressor towards Ukraine.

Two years ago Pavel Sheremet, a Belarussian journalist known for his criticism of his home country's leadership and his friendship with the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, was blown up in a car bomb in central Kiev.

Head of Kiev police Andriy Krishchenko (2ndR) speak to journalists at the entrance of building of journalist Arkadi Babchenko late on May 29, 2018. (AFP)

In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said journalists were being killed with impunity in Ukraine. The Investigative Committee of Russia said it had opened a criminal case into Babchenko's death.

Babchenko took part in the war in Chechnya as a soldier. He then he became a war reporter for several Russian newspapers. On Feb. 27 last year, he wrote on Facebook that he had left Russia.

He reported on Russia sending private military contractors to Syria and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, for which investigators last week held the Russian state responsible. Russian authorities again denied any connection with the plane's downing over an area of Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatist forces.

In his last Facebook post before he was killed, Babchenko recalled an incident four years ago when he was meant to fly in a Ukrainian military helicopter in Ukraine's embattled Donbass region. The helicopter was overloaded and he was not permitted to fly. It was shot down and 14 people on board were killed.

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