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Sunday 2 September 2018

Mykola Shytyuk speaks at a conference on the Holodomor at the Mykolayiv State Regional Universal Scientific Library on November 9, 2013.

Prominent Ukrainian historian Mykola Shytyuk has been found dead in his home city of Mykolayiv, police said on September 2.

Police said the historian’s body was found in an apartment on September 1 and bore signs of violence, including stab wounds.

A murder investigation has been launched.

Shytyuk was known for his works on the Holodomor famine that killed millions in Ukraine in the early 1930s.

The Holodomor took place in 1932-33 as Soviet authorities forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other foodstuffs.

Historians say the seizure of the 1932 crop in Ukraine by Soviet authorities was the main cause of the famine.

Ukraine and about a dozen other countries have recognized the famine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

Moscow has long denied any systematic effort to target Ukrainians, arguing that a poor harvest at the time wiped out many in other parts of the then-Soviet Union.

The Day of Remembrance for the victims of the famine is marked in Ukraine every year on the fourth Saturday of November.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, TASS, and Novosti-n.org
Self-exiled Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (file photo)

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.

Borys Herman (file photo)
Borys Herman (file photo)

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.

With reporting by AFP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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