By Wednesday afternoon, most of Arkady Babchenko’s friends and colleagues had gone through the familiar cycle of grief and confusion that follows the killing of a Russian dissident journalist.
Obituaries had been written, travel arrangements were in train for the funeral, and Western politicians including Boris Johnson had announced they were “appalled”.
Meanwhile, Ukraine had blamed Russia, Russia had blamed Ukraine, and both launched rival investigations to prove their stories.
And journalists in both countries, taught by bitter experience not to trust official probes into the deaths of their colleagues, pledged to run their own investigations.
But then came a twist that no one could have predicted: Vasily Gritsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), called a press conference and announced the whole thing had been a hoax.
For a moment, there was an uncomprehending silence. Then a door opened, and in shuffled a familiar shaven headed man.
Arkady Babchenko was wearing light trousers and a black hoodie. And he was looking somewhat sheepish.
“I have buried many friends and colleagues many times and I know the sickening feeling,” he said, by way of explanation. “I am sorry you had to experience it. But there was no other way.”
“Special apologies to my wife. Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here,” he said. “The operation took two months to prepare. I was told a month ago. As a result of the operation, one person has been captured, he is being held,” he added.
Mr Gritsak said Mr Babchenko’s fake death, which fooled his closest friends and family, as well as international media and world leaders, had allowed Ukrainian agents to thwart a genuine plot to take the journalist’s life.
Staging the murder, he implied, was necessary to gain evidence of communication between the hit man and his handlers, who he said worked for the Russian security services.
Yury Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said the alleged plot had involved a Ukrainian citizen recruited by Russian handlers to carry out the murder.
The SBU later released video of what they said was money being handed to the hired killer.
The death and resurrection of Russia’s most famous war correspondent is one of the strangest episodes in the bitter confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.