Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian national and ethnic Chechen, who had once fought against Russia in the Second Chechen War, was shot dead in broad daylight with three bullets to the head and back in Berlin’s Tiergarten park on 23 August 2019.
Chechen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili Shot Dead in Berlin: A Targeted Killing?
Chechen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who fought against Russia during the Second Chechen War, was assassinated in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park with two close-range gunshots to the head. There was one bullet wound in the shoulder and two in the head.
Before the assasin Vadim Nikolayevich Krasikov could flee the scene of the crime on an electric scooter parked in a nearby bush, German police apprehended him.
Two teenagers had reportedly seen the man discard a Glock handgun with a silencer, a bicycle, and a wig into the river Spree and informed the authorities.
When the police caught Vadim Krasikov, he had changed into a pink shirt, sandals, and a neck pouch containing a passport and a large amount of cash, in an attempt to blend in as a tourist. Krasikov was found with around €3,700 and 110 Polish zlotys (>€24), which prosecutors said was to pay his expenses in Berlin and aid in his flight from Germany after the murder.
A backpack that the police recovered from the river contained a shaving kit and paprika powder, which can be used to confuse the sense of smell of sniffer dogs.
Who Was Zelimkhan Khangoshvili and Why Was He Killed?
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was born on August 15, 1979, in Duisi, Georgia, a village in the Pankisi Gorge region that is home to a large Chechen population. He was the nephew of Chechen and Kist historian Khaso Khangoshvili. Khangoshvili finished school in Pankisi and then moved to Chechnya to live with his older brother Zurab in the late 1990s.
In 2001, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili joined the Chechen resistance against Russia in the Second Chechen War. He was a field commander and close associate of former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov. Khangoshvili’s brother Zurab claims that he participated in the June 2004 attack on security, military, and police forces in the Russian Republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan, in which 88 police officials and civilians were killed. Khangoshvili was reportedly wounded in the leg during the operation. Russian president Vladimir Putin accused him of being one of the perpetrators of a Moscow metro bombing, but Khangoshvili denied any involvement in war crimes.
After returning to Georgia, Khangoshvili led an anti-terror unit in South Ossetia during the 2008 war, but it was never deployed. In 2016, he, his wife, and four children fled to Germany after multiple assassination attempts in Georgia, which his brother believes were orchestrated by Russian intelligence, though Russia denies the claim.
The Investigation into His Murder
Vadim Krasikov, who arrived in Berlin just days before the killing, has denied responsibility and reportedly refused to answer questions. He has requested to speak to a representative of the Russian embassy. The Russian claimed that his name is Vadim Sokolov.
Days after the killing of Chechen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili on 23 August 2019, German investigators received an anonymous email claiming that the suspect was a hit man released from prison by the Russian authorities to carry out the assassination in Berlin. The email claimed that the suspect’s real name was Vladimir Alekseevich Stepanov, but authorities were concerned that the email could be a hoax.
Who Is Russian Assassin Vadim Krasikov?
Vadim Krasikov, 56, who went under the alias Vadim Sokolov, was found guilty of killing 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin on 23 August 2019.
A series of investigations by independent agencies such as Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel from 2019-2021 helped identify the suspect and link his personality with Russian security and intelligence services.
Berlin Court Verdict On Killing Of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili
On December 15, 2021, a Berlin court passed a guilty verdict of life imprisonment against a 56-year-old Russian citizen for the planned assassination of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Chechen dissident residing in the German capital. Judges reportedly stated that as the man bore “particularly grave responsibility” for the killing, he would not be entitled to automatic parole after 15 years’ time served.
Bellingcat Also issued a statement on Berlin Court Verdict. Materials and testimony from Bellingcat researchers played a key role in the prosecution, establishing that the assassin had in fact operated under a cover identity.
Germany Expelled 2 Russian Diplomats Over 2019 Killing
Germany expelled two Russian diplomats after a German court concluded that Moscow ordered the killing of a Chechen man in Berlin on 23 August 2019. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the state-sanctioned assassination a “serious violation of German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany.” She said that Russia’s ambassador to Berlin was summoned to discuss the court’s findings and informed of the diplomats’ expulsion.
According to Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 (WÜD), the Foreign Office today declared two employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin personae non gratae with immediate effect.
With this step, the federal government is reacting to the fact that, despite repeated high-level and emphatic requests, the Russian authorities have not sufficiently cooperated in solving the murder of Tornike K. in the Berlin Tiergarten on August 23, 2019.
State Secretary Michaelis recently expressed this expectation to Ambassador Nechaev in a conversation at the Foreign Office on November 20, 2019. Regardless, the Russian side treated the Federal Government’s request to participate in the investigation in a dilatory manner, as in previous months.
From the Federal Government’s point of view, serious and immediate cooperation by the Russian authorities remains necessary, all the more urgent in view of the fact that the Federal Prosecutor General has today taken over the investigation in this case on the grounds that there are sufficient factual indications that the killing was either commissioned by state authorities of the Russian Federation or those of the Chechen Autonomous 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 two Russian diplomats expelled are linked to Russian intelligence agencies.
The Kremlin has called the allegations of Russian involvement in the Berlin killing “absolutely groundless.”
Russia’s ambassador in Berlin denied Russian involvement in Khangoshvili’s murder.
“We consider the verdict an unobjective, politically motivated decision that seriously aggravates already complicated Russian-German relations,” Russian Ambassador Sergei Nechayev said, adding it was “an unfriendly act that won’t go unanswered.”
“The absurd notion about Russia’s involvement in the wrongdoing during the entire course of the trial was being methodically imposed on the public, was being weaved into the general anti-Russian background, but wasn’t in the end proved with convincing evidence,” he said.
European Georgia statement on berlin murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili