Germany on Wednesday expelled two Russian diplomats over the brazen killing of a Georgian on the streets of Berlin in August, as prosecutors said evidence suggested that the slaying was ordered either by Moscow or the authorities in Chechnya.
The allegation by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office was the latest from a Western European nation accusing Russia of an attack on its soil, after the UK last year blamed Moscow for an attempt to poison a former Russian spy in Salisbury.
Russia denied those allegations and similarly Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechaev rejected the accusations in the Berlin killing, while threatening consequences for the expulsion of its diplomats.
“Such German action will have a strong negative impact on Russian-German relations and naturally will not be left unanswered,” Nechaev said in a statement.
The case comes at a delicate time in relations between the two nations, as Germany pursues a hard line on sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea, but at the same time is working on a joint pipeline project to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic.
On Aug. 23, a 40-year-old man initially identified as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, an ethnically Chechen Georgian citizen, was gunned down in a Berlin park on his way to a mosque by an assailant on an electric bicycle, who sped away and ditched the bike, weapon and a wig in the Spree River, reports said.
German authorities said Khangoshvili was also known as Tornike K, and that Russian authorities had him on a terrorist list and accused him of being a member of the “Caucasus Emirate” extremist organization.
Witnesses saw the suspect disposing of the evidence after the killing and alerted police, who quickly identified and arrested the man, identified at the time as 48-year-old Russian Vadim K.
Prosecutors said that he went by the alias Vadim S, while German and international news outlets have reported his full name as Vadim Sokolov.
Prosecutors said they had found multiple indications that he carried out the attempt with official help.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the allegations of Russian involvement “absolutely groundless.”
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