Germany’s Public Prosecutor General believes that Russian intelligence agencies were behind the murder in Berlin of a former Chechen insurgent, and will therefore take over the investigation, in a move that will likely deepen the rift between Russia and the West.
German media is reporting that evidence has emerged linking Russian security services to the shooting dead in August of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in a park in central Berlin.
“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,” Reuters quoted an unidentified security source as saying.
Khangoshvili, a former commander who fought Russian troops in the second Chechen War between 2001 and 2005 was shot dead in the Kleiner Tiergarten park around midday on August 23rd.
Police quickly arrested a man who identified himself as “Vadim Sokolov”, 49-year-old Russian national, as he fled the scene on a bicycle.
Suspicions were immediately raised in the international intelligence community about possible Russian involvement in Khangoshvili’s death, although the German authorities tried to play down such allegations.
However, the websites Bellingcat, The Insider, the Dossier Center, and Spiegel Online, published the results of a joint investigation in which they concluded that “Vadim Sokolov” travelled to Berlin “under a false name with the active support of the Russian state”.
Using facial recognition technology, the journalists were able to determine that the photo submitted by “Vadim Sokolov” as part of his VISA application for entry into Germany, was a definitive match with that of Vadim Nikolaevich Krasiko, a convict whose photo was submitted by the Russian authorities to Interpol as the main suspect in a 2013 murder.
“Our investigative team has independently verified that the real identity of the Berlin assassin who travelled under the fake identity of Vadim Sokolov is in fact Vadim Nikolaevich Krasikov,” Bellingcat said.
If the Federal Prosecutors office takes over the investigation it come as confirmation that the authorities have also come to the conclusion that a foreign state was involved, and could result in Germany officially accusing the Kremlin of carrying out a political murder on its soil.
Should that happen it would evoke memories of the Sergei Skripal case, the former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter who were poisoned with the neurotoxin Novitchok in the UK in 2018, leading to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Russian and Western governments.
As with the Skripal case, the Kremlin has denied any involvement in the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili.