1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Russia ordered Berlin assassination: prosecutors

June 18, 2020

In August last year, a Georgian man was gunned down in public in Berlin. Prosecutors have now confirmed that they will seek to prove in court that it was a hit ordered by the Russian government.

Police and investigators at the Berlin crime scene. Archive image from August 23, 2019.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken

German federal prosecutors believe that Russia ordered the assassination of a Georgian man in Berlin last year.

The German government warned that it would take action on the findings, including sanctions.

"This is certainly an extremely serious matter," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. "The Federal Government expressly reserves the right to take further action in this case."

On August 23, 2019, a Russian man allegedly gunned down a 40-year-old Chechen with Georgian citizenship with three shots. The suspect was caught the same day, after being seen throwing a wig, a bicycle and a gun into the river Spree. Since then he has been in custody.

Read more:  German defense minister calls out Russia after Berlin murder

Russian hit

After a months-long investigation, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said it believes that the murder in the Kleiner Tiergarten was commissioned by the Russian government.

"The motivation behind the assassination order was the victim's opposition to the Russian central state, to the governments of its autonomous republics Chechnya and Ingushetia as well as to the pro-Russian government of Georgia," prosecutors said in the complaint, which was filed before the State Protection Senate of the Berlin Court of Appeal.

"Either he [the accused] hoped for a financial reward or he shared the motive of his clients to kill a political opponent in retaliation for his involvement in previous conflicts with Russia."

Read more:  Germany to investigate Russia ties to Georgian murdered in Berlin

Entered via Poland

Prosecutors alleged that the suspect received orders at an unknown date before July 18, 2019. Afterwards, he allegedly flew from Moscow to Paris and then on to Warsaw. From there he set off for Berlin on August 20, according to prosecutors.  He allegedly used recently-issued false papers to enter Germany.

The killing caused a diplomatic falling out between Germany and Russia, owing in part to Moscow's unwillingness to aid investigative efforts.

The German government expelled two Russian diplomats, prompting Moscow to expel two German diplomats.

The Russian government said it considered the victim to be a criminal, with President Vladimir Putin calling him a "bandit" and "murderer" at a press conference in December in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Thursday, the Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechayev, was summoned to the Foreign Office "in order to once again unequivocally explain our position to the Russian side," said Maas. It was "indispensable" that the case was now solved in court, he said.

Konstantin von Notz, a Green Party Member of Bundestag, told DW on Thursday that it was a serious case that the German government had to respond to.

"If those accusations are true and if the court is approving what the general attorney is saying, then it has to lead to consequences. You can't just ignore such a serious incident," he said.

How could Germany respond?

In any German response, the main question will be whether Berlin decides to respond by itself or if it calls on allies for support, according to Andras Racz, a senior fellow for Russia and Eastern Europe at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Racz said the UK chose a multilateral response following the murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, which resulted in over 150 Russian diplomats being expelled from all over Europe. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, chose a bilateral response when a Russian diplomat was accused of trying to murder a Czech diplomat. That led to tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats from each country.

"After the Tiergarten murder, two Russian diplomats, allegedly GRU operatives, were expelled from Germany — that is one classic way of responding," Racz told DW. "More serious measures are usually implemented on an EU level, such as further economic sanctions or further entry bans against Russian officials allegedly involved in the case."

Mikhail Bushuev contributed reporting to this article.

Berlin park murder accusation

aw/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)