Germany Expels 2 Russian Diplomats over Assassination of Chechen Separatist from Georgia
Moscow has denied any involvement, and has vowed to react accordingly.
Germany has expelled two Russian diplomats after the German Foreign Ministry designated them personae non gratae over the assassination of a Chechen man from Georgia in Berlin several months ago.
A 40-year-old Chechen separatist from Georgia, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was shot dead at the Kleiner Tiergarten park in Germany’s capital Berlin back in August 2019.
The suspect is a 49-year-old Russian national who carried out the drive-by style shooting on a bicycle in broad daylight shooting the victim in the head and chest, German prosecutors said, as cited by DW.
Moscow has denied any involvement in Khangoshvili’s murder in response to speculation that Russia’s intelligence might be involved.
Khangoshvili, a Georgian of Chechen descent, applied for asylum in Germany back in 2016 after several attempts on his life in Georgia. Nonetheless, his asylum application had been turned down, and he had been designated for deportation.
In 1999 – 2009, starting with what is known as the Second Chechen War, Khangoshvili, also known as “Tornike K., fought against Russian forces as a separatist. Subsequently, he alleged worked against Russian interests in Georgia and Ukraine. He is said to have been a Georgian military officer during the 2008 Russian – Georgian War over South Ossetia.
“[Tornike K.] was] classified as a terrorist by Russian authorities and persecuted as such,” German federal prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday, announcing that they were taking over the investigation into Khangoshvili’s assassination.
They revealed they had evidence suggesting that either Russia or its autonomous republic Chechnya might have ordered the murder of the Chechen separatist from Georgia.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry did not reveal the names of the two Russian diplomats who have now been expelled over Khangoshvili’s murder in Berlin but declared that the Russian authorities had failed to “cooperate sufficiently” in the investigation.
“[The expulsions] will not be left unanswered,” Russia’s Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechaev reacted, while the Russian Foreign Ministry described them as an “unfriendly, groundless step”.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed she was going to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet next week in France in the so called Normandy Format for talks over the peace process in Ukraine.
“We have received no active help from Russia in solving this case,” Merkel told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London.
“That says something about the significance of this crime. The government is still discussing what further consequences we will draw from this,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a press conference in Berlin as he welcomed the federal prosecutor’s decision to take over the case of Khangoshvili’s assassination.
The murder of the Chechen separatist in Berlin is seen as similar to the poising of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018, an attack for which Moscow has been denying responsibility but which has led to large-scale expulsions of Russian diplomats from Western countries.
(Banner image: Video grab from DW)