Ukraine says it has imprisoned the man it accused of being recruited by Russia’s secret services to organize a murder plot against self-exiled Russian reporter and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko.
Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), said on September 1 that Borys Herman had been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison by a court in Kyiv on August 30.
According to Hrytsak, Herman had pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Hrytsak shocked reporters and the world when he announced on May 30 that Babchenko was still alive, a day after Ukrainian authorities reported he had been killed by a gunman outside his Kyiv apartment.
The SBU said it thwarted the planned killing by working together with Babchenko to fake his death.
Herman is alleged to have promised $40,000 to a would-be assassin for the killing of Babchenko.
The alleged would-be killer, a former Ukrainian monk turned army veteran named Oleksiy Tsymbalyuk, said he went to the SBU after Herman approached him.
Tsymbalyuk said he worked with the agency to foil the plot.
Despite its apparent success, the SBU operation of faking Babchenko’s death received heavy criticism from media watchdogs, journalists, and others who said it undermined the credibility of journalists and of Ukrainian officials.
In Paris, Reporters Without Borders head Christophe Deloire said that staging Babchenko’s death "would not help the cause of press freedom."
"It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive...for the stunt," he added.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been badly damaged by Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014 and backing for separatist militants in a devastating war in eastern Ukraine.