Germany kicks out Russian diplomats over Berlin murder

AFP
December 05, 2019

BERLIN: Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after prosecutors said Moscow could be behind the killing of a former Chechen rebel commander in a Berlin park.Russia’s foreign...

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BERLIN: Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after prosecutors said Moscow could be behind the killing of a former Chechen rebel commander in a Berlin park.

Russia’s foreign ministry immediately pledged unspecified “retaliatory measures”, saying the accusations were “groundless and hostile”. Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian national, was shot twice in the head at close range in Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23, allegedly by a Russian man who was arrested shortly afterwards.

The suspect in the killing was said to be riding a bicycle and was seen by witnesses afterwards throwing the bike and a stone-laden bag with a gun into a river. Police also recovered a wig he was alleged to have used.

He has until now been named by police only as Vadim S. but evidence revealed by German prosecutors on Wednesday indicated this may have been a fake identity. The case has been compared with the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Britain last year with a Soviet-era nerve agent, which plunged relations between London and Moscow into a deep freeze. The attempted murder led to dozens of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions reminiscent of the Cold War. Speaking after a Nato summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany had acted “because we have not seen Russia supporting us in clearing up this murder”.

She said she did not expect any effect on a Ukraine summit planned for December 9 in Paris in which Russian President Vladimir Putin is also due to take part. In the case of the Berlin murder, German media and some politicians had already raised suspicions of Russian state involvement but said the government was dragging its heels because of strong economic ties with Russia. But a statement from the German foreign ministry on Wednesday indicated a change of tone.



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