German court convicts Russian man of killing Chechen rebels in exile

A German court has convicted a Russian man of murdering the exiled Chechen rebel leader in a Berlin park in 2019 at the behest of the Kremlin, a ruling that is likely to plunge Russia and Germany into a crisis new diplomatic crisis.

The presiding judge of the trial Olaf Arnoldi gave Vadim Krasikov sentenced to life in prison, found him guilty of murder and illegal possession of a firearm. He said that Krasikov had been contracted by Russian authorities to kill Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian citizen of Chechen origin living as a refugee in Germany. “He acted on the orders of the central government of Russia,” Arnoldi said.

The culmination of a year-long trial in a regional court in Berlin leaves new German chancellor Olaf Scholz facing one of his first foreign policy challenges. His predecessor Angela Merkel threatened consequences if the court confirmed that Khangoshvili’s death was at the behest of the Kremlin.

The ruling also comes at a time when east-west tensions are reaching new highs. The The United States has warned Russia may be about to invade Ukraine, after it deployed some 100,000 troops along its border with its western neighbour.

The entry of the Greens into the German government could also place new strains on German-Russian relations. The country’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock long ago protest against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will deliver Russian gas across the Baltic Sea to Europe, and has been outspoken about the Kremlin’s crackdown on Russian civil society.

Krasikov, 56, killed Khangoshvili in Kleiner Tiergarten, a park in central Berlin, on August 23, 2019 and was arrested shortly thereafter. Russian authorities consider the victim, who fought against Russia in the Chechen war and has been living as an asylum seeker in Germany since late 2016, as a terrorist.

Arnoldi describes Khangoshvili as a “committed patriot and soldier” who “believes in the idea of ​​a free and independent Chechnya”, although “there is no doubt” that he “must be held accountable”. about people’s deaths.”

The execution-style murder has pushed relations between Moscow and Berlin into a corner, with the two countries executing it Expulsion of tit-for-tat diplomats by the end of 2019.

Russia denies any involvement in the man’s murder. But after Mrs. Merkel confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the assassination in December 2019, he called Khangoshvili a “bandit”, adding: “In Berlin, a fighter was killed, who wanted in Russia, a bloodthirsty and brutal man.”

Krasikov’s lawyers at the beginning of the trial said their client was not Vadim Krasikov at all but Vadim Sokolov, a 50-year-old civil engineer who has no ties to the Russian state or intelligence services. FSB. They said he had nothing to do with Khangoshvili’s murder and was present in Berlin as a tourist.

The Khangoshvili affair focuses attention on the Kremlin’s alleged assassination campaign against opponents live abroad. Russian double agent Sergei Skripal survived a nerve agent attack in Britain in 2018, which Western governments say was ordered by Moscow.

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