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Russia expels 2 German diplomats in tit-for-tat move

December 20, 2021

The retaliatory move comes after a German court ruled that Russia was behind a 2019 assassination of a man in Berlin's Tiergarten park. Berlin had expelled two Russian diplomats in response.

 A sign at the German Embassy in Moscow
Two German diplomats have been ordered to leave Russia amid tensions surrounding a 2019 murder in a German parkImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Tass/S. Fadeichev

Russia ordered two German diplomats to leave on Monday, in a tit-for-tat move after Berlin expelled two Russian diplomats.

The latest diplomatic tensions between Russia and Germany stem from a 2019 murder of an ex-Chechen commander in a Berlin park. A German court last week ruled that Moscow ordered the assassination.

What did Russia say?

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had called in Germany's ambassador in Moscow, saying the move matched steps taken by Berlin.

"The German ambassador was informed that two diplomatic employees of the German embassy in Russia were declared 'persona non grata' as a symmetrical response," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry did not specify when the German diplomats must leave the country.

How has Germany responded?

The German government criticized the expulsions as aggravating already fragile relations between Berlin and Moscow.

"This move comes as no surprise, but it is completely unwarranted from the federal government's perspective," Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Today's decision by Russia's Foreign Ministry puts renewed strain on the relationship."

What happened in the Berlin murder case?

A court in the German capital last week sentenced a Russian national, Vadim Krasikov, to life in prison over shooting and killing a man in August 2019.

The 40-year-old victim was an ethnic Chechen of Georgian nationality, who was shot dead at point-blank range in broad daylight in Berlin's Kleiner Tiergarten park. The gunman was arrested later that day.

Prosecutors had argued that the gunman was acting on orders from Russia's state security agency, the FSB.

In handing down the sentence last week, Judge Olaf Arnoldi ruled that the murder was an act of "retaliation" against the victim for being a Kremlin opponent.

The victim was deemed a terrorist by Russian security services — he was accused of fighting as an insurgent against Russian forces in Chechnya, and later of being involved in a bombing attack on the Moscow metro.

The judge in the case, however, noted that the 40-year-old victim hadn't held a gun since 2008.

"This was not an act of self-defense by Russia. This was and is nothing other than state terrorism," Arnoldi said. "It was meant to set an example."

Following the verdict last week, Germany expelled two Russian diplomats. Berlin had previously expelled two other Russian diplomats shortly following the murder over Moscow's lack of cooperation in the case.

Russia has denied any involvement in the killing.

rs/aw (Reuters, AFP)