A Russian assassin has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a former Chechen rebel commander on orders from Moscow in a Berlin park.
Vadim Krasikov, 56, who operated under the pseudonym Vadim Sokolov, was found guilty on August 23, 2019 for killing 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten.
The Berlin district court said Krasikov carried out the killing on the orders of the Russian state after entering the country with a forged French passport and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The court ruled that Russian security services provided Krasikov with a false identity, forged passport and the resources to carry out the 2019 attack. Moscow today criticized the verdict as “political”, saying the verdict “seriously worsens already difficult Russian-German relations”.
The 2019 murdersparked outrage in Germany and sparked diplomatic tensions between Berlin and Moscow.
Changoshvili, who had sought asylum in Germany, led troops against Russia in the Second Chechen War and was classified by Moscow as a terrorist.
Vadim Krasikov, 55 (left), was sentenced to life imprisonment by a German court for shooting 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili (right) in a Berlin park in 2019
The Berlin district court said Krasikov carried out the killing on the orders of the Russian state after entering the country with a forged French passport and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Pictured: On Wednesday in the courtroom in Berlin
Defense attorneys had asked the court to acquit their client who alleged confusion.
According to judges, however, Krasikov bears “a particularly heavy responsibility” for the murder, which means that after 15 years he is not entitled to the automatic parole that is customary in Germany.
The relatives of the victim, who were allowed to take part in the trial as co-plaintiffs under German law, accused Russia last week of attempting to “send an embassy” to its political enemies by killing Changoshvili, who had applied for asylum in Germany three years earlier send”. .
Krasikov traveled to Berlin in August 2019 at the behest of the Russian government under the code name Vadim Sokolov for a “state-commissioned murder,” said the public prosecutor.
Krasikov shot Khangoshvili from behind in broad daylight in the Berlin park with a pistol with a silencer.
While Khangoshvili was on the floor, Krasikov reportedly shot two more bullets in his head, killing him.
Khangoshvili – identified by the German authorities under the pseudonym Tornike Kavtarashvili – was on his way to Friday prayers when he was killed.
Witnesses saw the suspect throw a bicycle, gun and wig into the Spree near the crime scene and alerted the police, who quickly arrested him before he could drive away with an electric scooter parked in a door.
The murder prompted the federal government to expel two Russian diplomats – and Moscow responded with it.
The judge said: “In June 2019 at the latest, state organs of the central government of the Russian Federation decided to liquidate Tornike Khangoshvili in Berlin,” said the judge.
‘Four children have lost their father, two siblings have lost their brother.’
Changoshvili (right, with former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, left) led troops against the Russians in the Second Chechen War and was viewed by Moscow as a terrorist
The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitri Peskov, described the allegations of Russian involvement in the killing in Berlin as “absolutely unfounded”.
But months after the murder, Putin said after a meeting with then Chancellor Angela Merkel that the victim was a “bandit” and a “murderer” and accused him of killing numerous people in fighting in the Caucasus.
Krasikov’s real identity was revealed by investigative website Bellingcat, which said he grew up in Kazakhstan when it was still part of the Soviet Union before moving to Russia’s Siberia region.
He was trained by the Russian secret service FSB and was part of its elite squad, according to the website.
Days before the August 2019 murder, he pretended to be a tourist and visited sights in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower before traveling to Warsaw, according to a report in the weekly Spiegel.
He also toured the Polish capital before disappearing without checking out of his hotel on August 22, the report said.
After his arrest in Germany, the police found his cell phone and a return flight ticket to Moscow in his hotel room in Warsaw on August 25, reported Der Spiegel.
Krasikov shot Khangoshvili from behind in broad daylight in the Berlin park with a pistol equipped with a silencer (scene, pictured)
Putin had described the victim as a “fighter, very cruel and bloody”, who fought with separatists in the Caucasus against Russian troops and was also involved in bomb attacks on the Moscow subway.
Moscow also said it requested extradition.
The outcome of the process could stir up new tensions between Germany and Russia, while the new government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz tries to gain a foothold in foreign policy with Moscow.
German-Russian relations suffered another blow last year after Merkel intervened to fly poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to Berlin for medical treatment. Navalny says he was poisoned by Russian agents, which Moscow denies.
After returning to his home country, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating his probation conditions while convalescing in Germany.
In 2018, a year before Khangoshvili’s murder, Russian agents poisoned former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok in the UK.
The Skripals fought for their lives after members of a Russian military intelligence agency smeared the deadly weapon on Mr Skripal’s front door in Salisbury.
Police officer Nick Bailey and Salisbury-based Charlie Rowley, whose partner, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, later died, were seriously injured in the attack.
Sergei Skripal – seen with his daughter Yulia – served as a double agent for the UK intelligence services in the 1990s and early 2000s
Mother of three Dawn Sturgess (left) and partner Charlie Rowley (right) fell ill in the apartment after touching a perfume bottle with the poison. She died while Mr. Rowley was recovering
In September of that year, Scotland Yard appointed a Russian paratrooper captain who became a GRU spy as the third man wanted for the attack on Salisbury Novichok.
Police said Sergey Fedotov, real name Denis Sergeev, is facing a number of charges, including an attempt to kill the Skripals and Bailey.
Fedotov is charged with seven charges, including three of attempted murder and conspiracy to kill Sergei Skripal, assault with intent against Yulia and Mr. Bailey, and possession and use of a chemical weapon.
Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov, the other two Russian military intelligence agencies accused of poisoning
Officials identified the third poison suspect in Salisbury as Sergey Fedotov (real name Denis Sergeev) and said he was a Russian citizen around the age of 50. This picture is from his travel documents
These are the same numbers that two other suspects faced in the case already identified by police in 2018 – Alexander Mishkin, who used the name Alexander Petrov in the UK, and Anatoliy Chepiga, who used the pen name Ruslan Boshirov.
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on a park bench in Salisbury after being poisoned with the neurotoxin novichok, which was believed to have been smeared on the doorknob of Mr Skripal’s house.
The attack is said to have been ordered by Russian intelligence to take revenge for Skripal’s work as a double agent for MI6 in the 1990s. He was arrested in 2004 and moved to the UK six years later on a spy swap deal.
Det Sgt Nick Bailey, one of the police officers who responded to the attack, also became seriously ill following the attack on March 4, 2018.
Four months later, Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three, died of a dose of neurotoxin after her partner Charlie Rowley found a discarded bottle containing the neurotoxin.
Russia has drawn the wrath of the Western powers for years, from annexing the Ukrainian Crimea to meddling in elections to supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls for a tougher stance towards Russia, particularly because of the military armament in the vicinity of Ukraine.
But Scholz is calling for a new Ostpolitik, as practiced by his social democratic predecessor as Chancellor Willy Brandt during the Cold War.