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Germany investigates Russian ties to assassination of Georgian exile in Berlin

04 December 2019

Germany has expelled two Russian embassy employees in protest against what it said was Moscow's lack of cooperation in an investigation into the murder of a Georgian man in Berlin, in which prosecutors suspect Russian or Chechen involvement.

"Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The German attorney general in the city of Karlsruhe has taken over the investigation into the August murder in Kleine Tiergarten, Berlin.

The prosecutor's office said there was "sufficient factual evidence" that the man had been shot dead "on behalf of state agencies of the Russian Federation".

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The German government has so far refused to point the finger at Russia, despite the fact that the 49-year-old hitman holds a Russian passport.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was shot in broad daylight in a Berlin park in August.

"We have evidence that a foreign intelligence agency was behind it and therefore the case is going to be taken over by the federal prosecutor this week", an unnamed source told Reuters.

The killing drew suspicion of Russian involvement from the beginning, although Moscow had denied any involvement.

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Russia's foreign ministry promised a response to Wednesday's move by Germany, which it described as unfriendly and unfounded.

In its statement on Wednesday (in German), the German federal prosecutor identified the victim as "Tornike K".

The Berlin killing echoes the Skripal case in the United Kingdom past year, when two Russian agents attempted to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

Khangoshvili fought against the Russians during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009, and worked thereafter in both Georgia and Ukraine against Russian interests, according to Deutsche Welle. He had previously survived multiple assassination attempts and continued to receive threats after fleeing to Germany.

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That attack was also blamed on Moscow - leading to the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Russia.

Germany investigates Russian ties to assassination of Georgian exile in Berlin