Germany expels Russian embassy staff over Georgian's murder

Clay Curtis
December 4, 2019

The German Foreign Office ordered the two Russian intelligence agents to leave the country with immediate effect.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old former Chechen rebel commander, was shot in the head from behind in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in August.

With Berlin's attorney general saying evidence points to Russian state involvement, pressure is likely to mount on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to send a strong signal to Moscow.

"Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The case threatens to inflame tensions between Russian Federation and Germany, and prosecutors' spokesman Markus Schmitt told The Associated Press his office chose to take over the investigation from Berlin state prosecutors after the political nature of the case that has come to light.

According to the German Press Agency, the Russian Foreign minsistry described the expulsion of its diplomats by Germany as "unfriendly" and "unfounded" and said it will now tale retaliatory steps.

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"There are sufficient factual grounds to suggest that the killing. was carried out either on behalf of state agencies of the Russian Federation or those of the Autonomous Chechen Republic, as part of the Russian Federation".

The Kremlin has denied any Russian government involvement.

In its statement on Wednesday (in German), the German federal prosecutor identified the victim as "Tornike K".

Khangoshvili survived an earlier assassination attempt in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in 2015, after which he fled to Ukraine where he is believed to have worked closely with the authorities against Russian interests. Khangoshvili's ex-wife, Manana Tsatieva, previously told DW: "We were warned that this would happen eventually".

German media have compared the attack on Khangoshvili to the attempted murder of Russian former intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom previous year.

Relations between Britain and Russia plunged into a deep freeze after the incident, which led to the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats around the world.

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