BERLIN: Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after a Berlin court jailed a man for killing a former Chechen commander on German soil in 2019 on orders from Moscow, escalating a growing diplomatic rift.
Judges in Berlin sentenced Russian Vadim Krasikov, alias Vadim Sokolov, to life in jail after finding him guilty of gunning down Georgian national Tornike Kavtarashvili, 40, in a Berlin park in broad daylight on August 23, 2019. “Russian state authorities ordered the accused to liquidate the victim,” presiding judge Olaf Arnoldi said, agreeing with prosecutors that the murder had been carefully planned.
The murder was meant “as retaliation” for being a Kremlin opponent, the judge added. Moscow immediately slammed what it called a “political” ruling against a backdrop of “general anti-Russian sentiment”.
The ruling is the first major stress test for Germany´s new government, which has vowed a tougher stance towards Russia, and comes amid growing alarm in the West about Russian troop movements on the border with Ukraine.
New Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she had summoned Moscow´s ambassador to inform him that Germany was expelling two Russian diplomats in response to the court´s ruling. “This murder by order of the state as determined by the court today constitutes a serious violation of German law and sovereignty,” Baerbock told reporters.
Back in 2019, shortly after the murder in Berlin´s Kleiner Tiergarten Park, Germany under then-chancellor Angela Merkel expelled two Russian diplomats in protest at Moscow´s perceived lack of cooperation with the investigation. Russia, denying any connection to the killing, responded with a tit-for-tat move.
According to German prosecutors, the suspect shot Kavtarashvili from behind on a bicycle, firing two shots from a Glock 26 pistol equipped with a silencer. Calling for Krasikov to be jailed for life as they summed up their case last week, prosecutors said they had identified him as a “commander of a special unit of Russian secret services FSB”.