The suspect in the killing of a Chechen dissident in Berlin holds a Russian passport. His papers indicate a possible link with Russian security services, according to reports in German media.
The man suspected of killing a Chechen war veteran in Berlin this week likely traveled from Russia under a false identity, German news magazine Spiegel reported on Friday.
Moscow has denied any links with the killing. However, details in the suspect's passports and visa application indicate a possible connection with Russia's security apparatus, the magazine reported. Spiegel said its findings were based on a joint research by its own staff, the UK-based Bellingcat investigative group, and Russia-based The Insider.
German authorities have identified the suspect as 49-year-old Russian national Vadim Andreevich S. He was arrested soon after an ethnic Chechen from Georgia was shot in the head at close range in a Berlin park.
When searching for the suspect's identity, investigators found no matches for his name and data in Russia's national passport database or the national drivers' registry. Also, according to Spiegel, the number on his passport indicates it had been issued by a section in Russia's Interior Ministry that has previously issued passports for agents of Russia's military intelligence.
When applying for a visa, the man provided a non-existent address in Saint Petersburg as his residence.
A separate report by Bellingcat notes that the passport was issued less than two weeks before the suspect flew to France, from where he traveled to Berlin. The travel document is also a non-biometric variety, without fingerprint data, these are only issued in emergencies when the applicant has no time to wait for the newer-type passport.
According to Bellingcat, the suspect used his new passport to apply for a visa at the French consulate in Moscow on July 29. He stated his occupation only as a "senior company employee" without specifying the company's name, and provided the fake address. However, he was quickly given a 6-month, multi-entry visa and was able to leave the country just two days later.
Usually, Russian border officials are required to check the passport against the national passport database before allowing passengers to leave the country. As the suspect's passport is currently not listed, Bellingcat says, it is possible that it had been in the database at the time of the trip and that the entry has since been deleted. Alternatively, authorities were instructed to let him through, the investigators say.
After the man identified as Vadim Andreevich S. was arrested in Berlin last week, German authorities said he would be kept in detention on charges of "perfidious murder." The Russian embassy said it was "in contact" with the German side.
Echoes of Skripal
The victim, Zelimkhan K. had fought against Russian forces in the second Chechen war of 1999-2002. He also recruited and armed a unit to fight in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, according to Bellingcat.
The 40-year-old veteran had apparently survived multiple attempts on his life in recent years, including a failed assassination in Tbilisi in 2015. He then fled to Ukraine and, in 2016, asked for asylum in Germany. Russian officials have described him as an Islamic terrorist, according to the Spiegel.
The killing in Berlin comes about a year and a half after Russian double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, in an incident the UK blamed on Russia's military intelligence. Moscow has denied any wrongdoing.
Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.