Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

Germany expels Russian diplomats over Chechen murder

Forensic experts scour the crime scene in a park in Berlin's Moabit district Forensic experts scour the crime scene in a park in Berlin's Moabit district Credit DPA
Deanna Wagner | 04 December, 2019, 15:36

The German Foreign Office ordered the two Russian intelligence agents to leave the country with immediate effect.

Germany expelled two Russian diplomats in response to what it says is a lack of cooperation by Moscow in the investigation of the killing of a Georgian man in Berlin.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian national, was shot twice in the head at close range in Kleiner Tiergarten park on 23 August, allegedly by a Russian man who was arrested shortly afterwards.

With Berlin's attorney general saying evidence points to Russian state involvement, pressure is likely to mount on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to send a strong signal to Moscow.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday promised it would respond to Germany's expulsion of two Russian diplomats, a move it called unfriendly and unfounded, Russian news agencies reported.

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"There is sufficient factual evidence to suggest that the killing. was carried out either on behalf of state agencies of the Russian Federation or those of the Autonomous Chechen Republic", the prosecutors said. The Kremlin has categorically denied its involvement, but the Russian government's unwillingness to illuminate the case has raised suspicions.

In their statement, German prosecutors said he was "classified as a terrorist by Russian authorities and persecuted as such".

Khangoshvili fought against the Russians during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009, and worked thereafter in both Georgia and Ukraine against Russian interests, according to Deutsche Welle. Khangoshvili's ex-wife, Manana Tsatieva, previously told DW: "We were warned that this would happen eventually".

Berlin's decision marks an escalation in already heightened tensions between Russia and Germany and other Western countries following the poisoning past year of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter on British soil.

Khangoshvili fled to Germany after surviving an assassination attempt in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2015. The attempted murder on British soil led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between London and Moscow.