Germany Summons Russian Ambassador, Accuses Moscow of Killing Chechen Rebel

Germany's foreign ministry has summoned Russia's ambassador to the country following accusations Moscow ordered the killing of a former Chechen commander in the center of Berlin.

A Georgian national, named in reports as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was shot twice in the head in Kleiner Tiergarten park, near the German parliament, in broad daylight on 23 August 2019. The assailant rode up to him on a bicycle.

In a case that has strained ties between Berlin and Moscow, German prosecutors allege a Russian citizen carried out the shooting on the victim, using a Glock 26 pistol with a silencer attached.

Russian embassy Berlin
Russia's embassy in Berlin, pictured in December 2019. The Russian ambassador to Berlin has been summoned by Germany's foreign ministry over accusations a Russian national killed a former Chechen commander in the German capital.

The killer, named by prosecutors as Russian national Vadim K., who also went by the alias Vadim S., "received the order from authorities at the central government of the Russian Federation."

Investigative website Bellingcat named the suspect as 54-year-old Vadim Krasikov. Moscow denies any connection to the killing.

"The accused accepted the order from state authorities to kill. He either hoped for a financial reward or shared the motive of the order-givers to kill a political opponent and thereby retaliate for participating in previous conflicts with Russia," prosecutors said in their statement.

Prosecutors said the victim was an asylum seeker who had led a Chechen militia against Russia in the Second Chechen War between 2000 and 2004, as well as gathering a group of volunteers in 2008 on behalf of the Georgian government to defend South Ossetia during the Russo-Georgian War. The victim was classified as a terrorist by Russia.

According to the Russian state-run news agency RIA, Moscow's envoy to Berlin, Sergei Nechaev, was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry on Thursday at the request of Foreign Minister Heiko Mass.

Speaking in Vienna, Maas said his ministry "has today again called in the Russian ambassador to once again make our position clear to the Russian side."

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Khangoshvili as "a cruel and blood-thirsty person," who took part in violent acts in Russia.

In December 2019, two staff members from the Russian embassy in Berlin were expelled after the German government accused Russian authorities of not cooperating enough in the investigation. In response, Russia expelled two staff from Germany's embassy in Moscow.

Ties between Germany and Russia are already under strain after Berlin accused Moscow of being behind a hacking attack in the German parliament, a case that could result in sanctions.

In a statement to Newsweek, the Russian embassy in Berlin said that the claims made by German prosecutors were "not supported by any facts or evidence."

"We consider the charges brought against Russian government agencies as baseless and unfounded," the statement said, which along with claims of Russian hackers targeting the German parliament, "do not contribute to any positive development of what is already complicated Russian-German relations.

"Regarding the threats by Berlin about possible further measures against Russia, these will not be left without a reaction if they are implemented."

This story has been updated to include a statement to Newsweek from the Russian embassy in Berlin.