A week after taking office, the new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, faces his first diplomatic crisis. The reason: the verdict rendered Wednesday, December 15 by the Berlin court in the case of the “Tiergarten murder”, named after the park of the German capital where a Georgian of Chechen origin, Zelimkhan Khangochvili, was killed by three bullets shot at close range, August 23, 2019.
After thirteen months of trial, the judges not only sentenced to life imprisonment the only accused, Vadim Krasikov, a 56-year-old Russian arrested by the police a few minutes after the crime. They also claimed that this one was “Member of the security services” of the Russian state and that “The order to liquidate [la victime] had been given to him by authorities belonging to the government of the Russian Federation ”.
Perfectly predictable, the reaction of the Russian side was to sweep aside a verdict ” Politics “. “The absurd thesis of the participation in this crime of the Russian Federation has been methodically imposed on the public throughout the duration of this trial, and is inscribed in a general context of Russophobia”, estimated the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Nechayev, warning that the judgment ” overwhelmed[ait] seriously Russian-German relations which, otherwise, were already difficult ”.
In detail, Moscow is annoyed that the verdict is partially based on the conclusions of the investigative media Bellingcat, the first to establish the identity of the suspect and his links with the Russian security services (the FSB). The fact that these conclusions are brought by justice, and therefore go beyond the framework of a press inquiry or a parliamentary inquiry, makes the case even more « radioactive » for Moscow than other business in the past, noted the editor-in-chief of Echo Moscow radio, Alexei Venediktov.
Two Russian diplomats expelled
The German government waited until the middle of the afternoon to react. “This assassination committed by order of a State is a serious attack on the sovereignty of Germany”said new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), announcing that her government had ordered the expulsion of two Russian diplomats stationed in Berlin.
This diplomatic pass is not the first in Berlin and Moscow since the start of the affair. On December 4, 2019, the day the German public prosecutor’s office seized the investigation, the German foreign ministry had already expelled two agents from the Russian military intelligence service (the GRU). Berlin invoked the “Lack of cooperation” Russian authorities are investigating. Russia responded by sacking two German diplomats based in Moscow.
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German justice points to Moscow’s hand in the assassination of a Georgian in Berlin