Lawyer, Ukrainian Authorities Name Alleged Organizer Of Plot To Kill Babchenko

KYIV -- Ukrainian authorities have identified the Ukrainian citizen accused of being recruited by Russia's secret services to organize a murder plot against self-exiled Russian reporter and Kremlin critic Arkady Babchenko.

In a Kyiv courtroom on May 31, prosecutors accused Borys Herman of overseeing the alleged Russian plot. Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) says it thwarted the planned killing by working together with Babchenko to fake his death.

The court later approved a request by prosecutors to hold Herman in pretrial detention for two months.

In a post to his Facebook page on May 31, Herman's lawyer, Yevhen Solodko, confirmed that Herman was the director of a Ukrainian-German arms manufacturer called Schmeisser, describing the firm as the only nonstate arms-production enterprise in Ukraine.

Solodko also said Herman had been in communication with alleged co-conspirators, but insisted there had not been any discussion of a murder plot.

Solodko also claimed that Herman had actively supported Ukrainian military forces in their fight against Russia-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region.

He said Herman's weapons firm had a long-standing business relationship with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

"Borys himself is known for his volunteer activity" and helping the Ukrainian military in its fight against Russia-backed separatists in the east, he said.

"It is his optics that stand on the rifles of our snipers," Solodko said. "It is he who modernizes and creates the most powerful sniper complexes on the basis of existing military weapons."

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported that a Ukrainian man who had fought in eastern Ukraine has been charged as a would-be assassin for allegedly plotting to kill Babchenko.

Authorities have not yet identified the would-be killer but accused Russian intelligence agencies of providing Herman with $40,000 to organize Babchenko's murder -- including $10,000 for his mediation services and a $30,000 payment to the killer.

Ukrainian authorities also said a total of up to 30 people in Ukraine had been targeted for killing as part of the alleged Russian plot.

Both SBU officials and Babchenko have defended their decision to fake Babchenko's death -- rejecting criticism from reporters and journalism advocates who warned that it has undermined the credibility of law enforcement agencies and independent media organizations.

With reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, and Current Time TV