Germany expels two Russian diplomats over assassination of Georgian man in Berlin

Policemen stand in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin

A Russian official condemned the move as "Russophobic hysteria" and did not rule out a reciprocal move.

The federal prosecutor took up the case earlier this week, to investigate suspected Kremlin links to the murder of 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen rebel commando with Georgian nationality, who had fought against Russian Federation in the second Chechen war in 2001-2005.

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

The suspect was detained shortly after the killing when he was allegedly seen dumping a bike, pistol and a wig into the nearby River Spree.

"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. Prosecutors said he also went by the alias Vadim S., and German and global news outlets have reported he had links to organized crime in Russian Federation.

The names and positions of the diplomats were not given, although the ministry said it took the move after Russian authorities failed to "cooperate sufficiently" in the murder investigation.

Dmitry Novikov, a senior Russian lawmaker, said he thought Moscow would respond in kind to the German expulsions, the Interfax news agency reported.


Police findings indicate that it is "highly likely" the arrested man is Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national previously wanted for the murder of a businessman in Moscow in 2013, prosecutors said.

An arrest warrant was issued by Moscow in 2014 but withdrawn in July 2015, the prosecutor says.

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.

He applied for asylum in Germany in 2016 following multiple attempts on his life in Georgia.

It also follows the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter who were poisoned with a nerve agent on British soil past year.

Chechnya is now run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel who switched sides and is now fiercely loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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