The Kremlin on Wednesday described an allegation by Ukraine that it was behind the murder of a dissident Russian journalist in Kiev as an anti-Russian smear and demanded that Ukraine conduct a genuine investigation into the killing.
The weird scenes were a shock to everyone - including Mr Babchenko's wife, who received an apology from her husband for faking his own death.
His reported murder touched off a war of words between Ukraine and Russian Federation, a flurry of condemnations from European capitals and Washington, and shivers through the journalistic communities in both countries.
Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was fatally shot at his apartment in Kiev, Ukrainian police said Tuesday. "I'm sorry you had to go through this but there was no other way".
"Separately, I want to apologise to my wife for the hell that she has been through."
Babchenko told RFE/RL in December 2016 that "all of the elements" of Russia's state "propaganda machine" were engaged against him after he posted comments to Facebook about the crash of a Russian military plane in the Black Sea.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rebuked the accusations against the Kremlin, saying "bloody crimes and total impunity have become routine" in Ukraine and ought to be investigated. He was given $40,000 to organize the murder, $30,000 for the killer and $10,000 for being an intermediary, the SBU said.
While studying law in Moscow aged 18, Mr Babchenko was conscripted into the Russian army and served during the Chechen wars from 1994-2000.
In a social media post soon after news of his death emerged, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Vladimir Groysman, said it held Russian Federation responsible.
Babchenko fled Russian Federation previous year, fearing for his life, and settled in Ukraine.
Babchenko was well-known for his criticism of the Kremlin. He was a sharp critic of Russia's annexation of Crimea and its intervention in east Ukraine, according to press reports.
In a statement following Babchenko's big reveal Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged authorities to explain the reasoning behind the staged death in greater detail.