Germany has expelled two Russian embassy employees following the murder of the Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin, which Berlin suspects was orchestrated by the Russian government.
Two Russian diplomats have been declared personae non gratae in accordance with article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961, Interfax reported, citing a spokesperson of Germany’s Foreign Ministry. “This status becomes effective immediately,” the diplomat clarified.
The German Public Prosecutor General’s Office, which is investigating the murder that was committed at the end of August not far from the Kleiner Tiergarten district in Moabit, Berlin, believes that Russian government agencies were behind the killing.
“There are good, valid reasons to presume that the murder was committed at the order of either Russia’s state organs, or organs of the Chechen Republic, which is part of Russia,” said the department in charge of the investigation in a statement.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was shot in Berlin on August 23. During the Second Chechen War, he fought for Grozny. In 2002, Russia declared him wanted on suspicion of terrorism.
The suspected killer has been arrested, and is a Russian citizen. According to Der Spiegel, the suspect traveled to Germany through France with a recently issued passport in the name of Vadim Andreevich Sokolov, born in 1970. No one with such a name and date of birth exists in any database, including Russia’s passport database, which the authors of the investigation believe could be evidence that Sokolov passed through border control with assistance from Russia’s intelligence agency.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations and called them absolutely groundless. “There are no serious suspicions, nor can there be,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“What link does this have to the Russian government? That’s an absolutely groundless proposition. This topic is being hyped up by the German media, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the way things are,” said Peskov.
The Russian embassy promised to provide consular assistance to the arrested Russian and to verify his citizenship.
“The German government reserves the right to take further steps in light of the investigation,” warned the German Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
According to The Wall Street Journal, measures that are being considered include sanctions,which could affect the energy cooperation between Russia and Germany.