Germany expels Russian diplomats over murder of Georgian man in Berlin
Berlin - Suspicions of Russian state involvement in an apparent
contract killing of a Georgian man in central Berlin earlier this
year have led Germany to expel two Russian diplomats.
The diplomats have been designated as personae non gratae, the German
Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, adding that the government
suspects Russian intelligence agencies were involved in the shooting.
Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned Germany's move as "unfriendly"
and "baseless," according to comments carried by Russian news
Russia's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said the
country was preparing its official response.
Senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, an authority on foreign
policy, said Germany should expect to have two of its diplomats
expelled from Russia as a "symmetrical" measure.
The German authorities moved ahead of a summit on Ukraine to be
attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, along with French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris
Commenting about the case on the sidelines of a NATO summit in
Britain, Merkel criticized Russia for giving insufficient assistance
to German investigators.
"In bilateral relations, it is of course notable that we
unfortunately received no active help in clarifying this incident,"
Germany's decision to expel the two Russian diplomats was taken
because of the lack of assistance, Merkel said, adding that the
measure was not expected to affect the Ukraine summit.
Germany's federal prosecution service has taken over responsibility
for the probe into the shooting, which occurred in broad daylight on
August 23 in a small park in the inner-city neighbourhood of Moabit.
The killer, riding a bicycle, approached the 40-year-old victim from
behind and aimed at his back and head.
German federal prosecutors investigate cases where there is firm
suspicion of involvement by a foreign power. The espionage department
of the Federal Prosecutor's Office in the western city of Karlsruhe
will work on the case.
The German investigation is also looking into a possible link to
officials in Chechnya, a republic within the Russian Federation that
has its own constitution but is still controlled by Moscow.
Russia has fought two wars to quell separatist rebellions in Chechnya
since the dissolution of the Soviet Union almost three decades ago.
A man with a Russian passport has been detained in connection with
the Berlin killing. The suspect, also implicated in the murder of a
Russian businessman in 2013, has maintained his right to keep silent.
The victim killed in August is said to have fought against Russia on
the side of Muslim Chechens in the early 2000s. He is also reported
to have survived a May 2015 attempt on his life in the Georgian
Putin's spokesman on Wednesday adamantly denied Russian state
involvement in the murder.
"What does this have to do with the Russian authorities? These are
absolutely baseless assumptions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
said in comments carried by Russian news agency Interfax.
"This topic is somehow exalted by the German media, but that does not
mean this is the case," Peskov said.
Over the past two days Russian and German law enforcement authorities
have met in Moscow to discuss collaboration, Russia's prosecutor
general's office said in a statement. It did not mention the murder