Germany expels Russian diplomats after assassination in Berlin

Nellie Chapman
December 4, 2019

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.

The German government has so far refused to point the finger at Russia, despite the fact that the 49-year-old hitman holds a Russian passport.

The German foreign ministry also announced that two employees at Russia's embassy in Berlin had been designated personae non grate and were expelled.

From the outset, the "execution-style" killing of 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili drew suspicion of Russian involvement.

"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 unnamed source told Reuters.

In a statement, prosecutors said there is "sufficient evidence" to indicate that the man's murder was carried out on the behalf of the Russian state or by Chechnya.

According to the German Press Agency, the Russian Foreign minsistry described the expulsion of its diplomats by Germany as "unfriendly" and "unfounded" and said it will now tale retaliatory steps.

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The Kremlin has previously denied any Russian government involvement in the murder.

A Georgian national, Khangoshvili fought in the second Chechen war against Russian forces in the North Caucasus in the period 2001-2005.

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

Khangoshvili fled to Germany after surviving an assassination attempt in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2015. His asylum application, however, was denied and he was slated for deportation.

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

The case threatens to worsen already heightened tensions between Berlin and Moscow.

German media have compared the attack on Khangoshvili to the attempted murder of Russian former intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom previous year. The attempted murder on British soil led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between London and Moscow.

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