Germany to probe Russian links to Berlin murder
Prosecutors reportedly believe Russia ordered the assassination of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in August and that a Russian held over the killing was following Kremlin orders.
The investigation is due to be transferred to federal prosecutors responsible for issues of espionage and national security.
Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s highest general prosecutor in Karlsruhe decided to take on the case after forensics identified the alleged assassin as Vadim Krasikov, who was sought over the murder of a Russian business owner in 2013 in Moscow.
Russia issued an international arrest warrant for Krasikov in 2014 but withdrew it without fanfare in 2015.
The investigative website Bellingcat said Krasikov’s records were also purged from the Russian state’s databases.
Bellingcat said yesterday (Tuesday) that the suspect was the 54-year-old Krasikov.
“In June 2013, Krasikov was the key suspect in the murder of a Russian businessman who had been the subject of several previous assassination attempts,” Bellingcat reported.
“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 handgun at close range, both in the back and in the head, and had left on his bike.”
Krasikov was raised in Kazakhstan before spending time in Siberia, the British-based investigative site said.
“We have evidence that a foreign intelligence agency was behind it and therefore the case is going to be taken over by the federal prosecutor this week,” an anonymous security source was quoted saying.
Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian who fought against Russian forces in Chechnya, had links to Georgian intelligence.
An ethnic Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, Khangoshvili was part of the second separatist insurgency from 1999 to 2002 against Russian forces in Chechnya, and the killing fits a pattern of murders of former Chechen insurgents in several cities which have pointed to the involvement of the Russian authorities.
He was shot in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten in August.
As with the murder of Khangoshvili, the 2013 victim was shot by a man who approached him on a bicycle. The assassin escaped but was arrested trying to drop a pistol into the capital’s River Spree.
He refused to cooperate but was using a Russian passport under the name Vadim Sokolov.
The passport’s number is linked to the Russian security services and the notorious GRU military intelligence, according to a joint investigation in August by Der Spiegel, the Insider in Russia and Bellingcat.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili’s body before being buried in Georgia in August. Picture credit: YouTube