On December 4th, Germany expelled two employees of the Russian embassy after German prosecutors claimed there was sufficient evidence to prove that the murder of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was carried under orders by either Russia or Chechnya.
Khangoshvili is a member of the Emirate of the Caucasus terrorist organization. It has operated in Russia and is now active in Syria. It’s well known for its links with al-Qaeda.
Berlin’s attorney general took over the investigation and said that evidence points to Russian state involvement.
Prosecutors said there is “sufficient evidence” to indicate that the man’s murder was carried out on the behalf of the Russian state or by Chechnya.
The German foreign ministry announced that two employees at Russia’s embassy in Berlin had been designated personae non grate and were expelled.
The names and positions of the diplomats were not given, although the ministry said it took the move after Russian authorities failed to “cooperate sufficiently” in the murder investigation.
The statement by the German Foreign Ministry is the following, translated from German:
“The Federal Foreign Office today declared two employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin to be personae non gratae in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961 (WÜD).
With this step the Federal Government reacts to the fact that the Russian authorities, despite repeated high-ranking and emphatic requests, did not sufficiently participate in the investigation of the murder of Tornike K. [the Georgian citizen, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili] in the Berlin Tiergarten on 23.08.2019.
This expectation was last expressed by Foreign Minister Michaelis to Ambassador Nechayev on 20.11.2019 in an interview at the Foreign Office. Irrespective of this, the Russian side diligently ignored the Federal Government’s call to participate in the investigation as in previous months.
From the point of view of the Federal Government, serious and prompt cooperation by the Russian authorities remains imperative, given that today the Federal Public Prosecutor General has taken over the investigation in this case on the grounds that there are sufficient real indications that the killing is either on commission is done by state agencies of the Russian Federation or such of the Autonomous Chechen Republic as part of the Russian Federation.
The Federal Government reserves the right to take further steps in this matter in the light of the investigation.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, said that Moscow considers the decisions of Berlin to be politicized, so it will be forced to respond accordingly. It called the move to expel the diplomats an “unfriendly, ungrounded step.”
Earlier media reported that the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel may impose diplomatic or other sanctions against Moscow if there is evidence that it played a part in the murder of the Georgian citizen.
In late August, 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was shot in an “execution-style” killing at Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park. The suspect in the case, a 49-year-old Russian national, carried out the drive-by shooting on a bicycle in broad daylight — shooting the victim in the head and chest, prosecutors said.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was an asylum-seeker of Chechen descent from Georgia who fought against the Russians as a member of the terrorist group during the Second Chechen War from 1999 – 2009. He was also known by a second identity “Tornike K.” which was the one used by German prosecutors. After the war, he reportedly worked in both Ukraine and Georgia against Russian interests.
German prosecutors said he was “classified as a terrorist by Russian authorities and persecuted as such.”
Khangoshvili, fought against Russia on the side of illegal armed groups led by Shamil Basaev, Abu al-Valid and Aslan Maskhadov.
During the armed conflict in South Ossetia he was an officer in the Georgian army. He was put on a wanted list on suspicion of terrorism in Russia, since he supported the terrorist organization “Emirate of the Caucasus”.
In 2005, he left Georgia to get to Germany, through Ukraine. On August 23th, 2019, he was killed in the center of Berlin by shots in the chest and head.
He applied for asylum in Germany in 2016 following multiple attempts on his life in Georgia. His asylum application, however, was denied and he was slated for deportation. Khangoshvili’s ex-wife, Manana Tsatieva, previously told DW: “We were warned that this would happen eventually.”
The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was not involved in the death of Khangoshvili.
The United States accused the Russian special services of his murder. German media also believe that Russia is to blame for the murder, even calling it the “second Skripal case.”
On August 30th, German outlet der Spiegel speculated that the suspect could be an agent of the Russian special services. The authors of the article made such a conclusion on the basis that the name of the suspect presented in the documents for obtaining a visa, according to their version, is not available in the Russian data banks, and his passport number indicates the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which “had already issued documents to the GRU military intelligence officers.”
Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the German government, said the authorities “took note of media the reports.”
As always, the only reasonable explanation of the death of a member of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the EU that mainstream media outlets and Western diplomats can see is “GRU agents”.
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