Russian state journalist killed by stray bullet at Crimea base

Svetlana Babayeva was head of the Rossiya Segodnya media group's bureau in Simferopol.

A view shows a Russian military base in Sevastopol, Crimea, July 5, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
A view shows a Russian military base in Sevastopol, Crimea, July 5, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

A Russian journalist working for a major Kremlin-backed media group died on Friday in a shooting accident at a military training ground in Crimea, Russian-installed officials and state media outlets said.

Svetlana Babayeva was head of the Rossiya Segodnya media group's bureau in Simferopol, the second-largest city on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The RIA Novosti news agency, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya, reported Babayeva was killed by a stray bullet during shooting practice. It provided no further details.

Pro-Kremlin figures paid tribute to Babayeva in social media posts. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian governor of Crimea, called her death an irrevocable loss.

“Svetlana did a great deal to convey to the public the truth about what is going on in Kherson region.”

Vladimir Saldo, Russian-backed head of the Kherson region

"Svetlana did a great deal to convey to the public the truth about what is going on in Kherson region," said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed head of Ukraine's southern Kherson region.

Old building at the Karl Marx Street in Simferopol, Crimean Peninsula (credit: A.SAVIN/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Old building at the Karl Marx Street in Simferopol, Crimean Peninsula (credit: A.SAVIN/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Russia has proclaimed Kherson and three other regions as its own following referendums it staged that were slammed as sham and illegal votes by Kyiv and the West.

Russia's Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram page: "I love you very much, Sveta."

Rossiya Segodnya group

Ukraine has sanctioned the Rossiya Segodnya group, calling CEO Dmitry Kiselyov "the central figure of government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine."

In a statement posted by RIA Novosti, Kiselyov said Babayeva was a "warm person, who strongly supported Russia," and "wanted to support our heroes."

Babayeva was previously bureau chief for RIA Novosti in Britain and the United States, and editor of the Gazeta.Ru website, the agency said.