Published: Wed, December 04, 2019

Berlin murder: Germany expels two Russian diplomats

Berlin murder: Germany expels two Russian diplomats

In a verbal protest note given to Russian Ambassador Sergei J. Netschajew after he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday morning, Russia is strongly urged to cooperate with German authorities on the case.

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.

"There are enough indications of the fact that the death of Tornike K. was either contracted by government offices of the Russian Federation or the autonomous Chechen republic as part of the Russian Federation" to suggest a political motive, Schmitt's office said in a statement, using only a last initial for the victim in line with German privacy laws. On the same day the Berlin prosecutor's office declared the detention of a suspect, which, according to its sources, was a 49-year-old Russian citizen.

Federal prosecutors in charge of intelligence cases said they had taken over the investigation from Berlin authorities.

The Kremlin has denied any Russian government involvement.

Russia's foreign ministry called the move to expel the diplomats an "unfriendly, ungrounded step" and vowed to respond.

In its statement on Wednesday (in German), the German federal prosecutor identified the victim as "Tornike K".

Manana Tsatieva, Khangoshvili's ex-wife, told German global broadcaster Deutsche Welle that she believes her late husband's history likely motivated the attack.

Khangoshvili was an asylum-seeker of Chechen descent from Georgia who fought against the Russians as a separatist during the Second Chechen War from 1999 - 2009.

The assassination in Berlin echoes the attempted murder of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England previous year.

Tsatieva said Khangoshvili escaped to Germany in 2016 after multiple attempts against his life in Georgia, but was denied asylum here.

That attack was also blamed on Moscow - leading to the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Russia.

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