The condemnation of the Russian agent opened a new front with Moscow

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The conviction in Germany of a Russian agent who killed a Georgian of Chechen origin wanted by Russia leads to a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Russia. Two years after his execution, a Berlin court of appeals sentenced 56-year-old Russian Vadim S. to life in prison.

The case: The Russian agent cold-bloodedly executed Selimhan Hangoshvili on August 23, 2019 in Kleiner Tirgarden Park in central Berlin, a few hundred meters from the Federal Parliament, Bundestag.

Russian authorities were looking for a 40-year-old Georgian man with an arrest warrant for taking part in the attacks on the Moscow metro. Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly described him as a “terrorist” and a “thief.” Hangoshvili had fought in the second Chechen war on the side of the rebels against Russia. In Tbilisi he was attacked twice, but survived. He then fled to Germany via Ukraine and Poland and lived in Berlin under the name Tornike K.

Shortly after his assassination, Berlin police arrested a Russian suspect, Vadim S., as the main suspect. German colleagues, it turned out that his real name was Vadim Krasikov, who had connections with Russian Secret Services. A Bellingcat reporter testified as a key witness in the Berlin trial, and was identified by another key witness, a relative from Ukraine.

The consequences: A few months after the crime, in December 2019, the then German federal government expelled two Russian diplomats because Moscow did not provide sufficient assistance during the investigation. Berlin had left open the possibility of considering further measures when a court decision was reached. Following the decision of the Berlin Court of Appeals, the new German Foreign Minister, Analena Berbock, described the assassination of Georgianos as a “serious violation of German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany.” The Russian ambassador to Berlin was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on the same day. Two Russian diplomats have been declared “undesirable persons” in Germany. According to information from “Spiegel” magazine, these are agents of the Russian Secret Service FSB.

Foreign Minister Berbok said she had spoken by telephone with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, saying that Germany wanted an open and honest dialogue with Russia. At the same time, however, he pointed out that “actions, such as the murder in Little Tirgaarden, significantly burden this dialogue.” He stressed that the German government will do everything “to guarantee security in Germany.”

In the nadir: Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergei Netsayev reacted loudly to the court ruling. He spoke of a “political decision, not objective and biased, which is definitely an unfriendly act”. He even threatened that “it will not go unanswered by Russia.”

The Kremlin has condemned the Berlin appeal, but said it hoped it would not affect relations between President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Olaf Solz. However, Stefan Meister, director of the German Foreign Policy Association (DGAP), does not expect a dramatic deterioration in German-Russian relations. They are at such a low point, he says, that it is almost impossible for them to deteriorate further.

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