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Germany Suspects 'Russia Link' To Ethnic Chechen's Killing In Berlin

Updated

Demonstrators hold portraits of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in front of the German Embassy in Tbilisi in September.

German federal prosecutors are preparing to take over the case related to the slaying of an ethnic Chechen Georgian national in Berlin this summer, according to media reports, amid suspicions that Russian intelligence was involved in the killing.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40, who had previously fought alongside separatists in Russia's Chechnya region, was shot twice in the head in Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23.

A Russian national suspected of carrying out the killing was arrested shortly afterward.

"The Federal Prosecutor's Office suspects Russian state agencies of having commissioned the murder," the German weekly Der Spiegel reported, adding that federal prosecutors were preparing to step in "in the coming days."

Other German media and Reuters, citing sources, also reported that federal prosecutors would step in this week.

"We have evidence that a foreign intelligence agency was behind" the killing, Reuters quoted a German legal source as saying.

German media have drawn parallels between Khangoshvili's assassination and the 2018 poisoning in England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Russia denies state involvement in both incidents.

Khangoshvili fought in the Second Chechen War in 1999-2002 against Russian national forces alongside notorious field commander Shamil Basayev and was reportedly close to Aslan Maskhadov, who had briefly served as president of Chechnya.

The suspect operated under the alias Vadim Adreyevich Sokolov, using a passport whose number is linked to Russian security services, notably GRU military intelligence, according to a joint investigation published in August by Der Spiegel, The Insider in Russia, and the British-based open-source investigation group Bellingcat.

The August 30 investigation did not establish the suspect's real identity. But in a statement on December 3, Bellingcat claimed that the suspect who had traveled to Berlin under the Sokolov alias is in reality 54-year-old Vadim Krasikov.

"In June 2013, Krasikov was the key suspect in the murder a Russian businessman [in Moscow] who had been the subject of several previous assassination attempts," Bellingcat said.

"The murder in Moscow was similar in many respects to the Berlin assassination -- the killer had approached his target on a bicycle, had shot at him with a hand gun at close range, both in the back and in the head, and had left on his bike." Krasikov grew up in Kazakhstan before spending time in Siberia, Bellingcat claimed.

A separate Bellingcat investigation alleges that three officers of Russia's GRU military intelligence service attempted to kill Skripal and his daughter with a highly toxic nerve agent.

Two of the three alleged officers are wanted by the British authorities for questioning.

Skripal and his daughter survived the poisoning in Salisbury, England, but a British woman with no connections to Russia died, apparently after accidentally coming into contact with the substance.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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