German-Russian relations are threatened with a new stress test. The Federal Government now assumes that Russian intelligence services are involved in a contract killing, which took place in the middle of Berlin at the end of August and caused an international sensation. Background are new tracks leading to Moscow. Attorney General Peter Frank is about to information from the ZEIT on the verge of the investigation of the alleged murderer and the backers to pull.
This would formally suspect that Russia has committed an act of state terrorism. So far, the Chancellery and the Foreign Office had always pointed out that there was no reliable evidence for a Russian participation. Accordingly, Berlin had renounced diplomatic consequences.
This view has obviously changed. This could not only lead to the assumption of investigations by the Attorney General, but also to political countermeasures. Usually, in such a case, diplomats are expelled from the country to signal. In the case of the attack on the defector Sergei Skripal in Britain in 208, 15 European countries had responded with coordinated responses and sent a total of more than 30 Russian diplomats back to Moscow. And, in fact, circles in the Federal Government are currently considering expelling one or more Russian intelligence agents from Germany.
Shots in the head
The exiled Georgian Selimchan Changoschwili was murdered on 23 August at around noon in the Berlin district of Tiergarten by a cyclist with three shots. The first bullet hit Changoschwili from behind, and then the assassin shot him twice from close range twice, apparently to make sure the victim was really dead. He then sank the murder weapon, his escape bike and a wig on the Spree.
Two teenagers watched as the killer fled to shrubbery and changed clothes. They alerted the police, who could arrest the man on the spot. The alleged murderer identified himself as Vadim Sokolov, a Russian citizen from St. Petersburg, who had traveled to Berlin shortly before the assassination of Paris and Warsaw. Sokolov has since been in custody in Berlin, where he reportedly behaves exemplary.
The suspicion that Sokolov is a contract killer sent by Moscow, was circulating shortly after the fact. The exiled Georgian Changoschwili, who had been shot, not only fought in Chechnya on the part of the insurgents, but also worked in the Georgia war against the Russians. He was also suspected of having scrounged for the CIA.
But so far, Attorney General Frank had resisted all claims to take over the case - he was only in cases of state terrorism responsible, not in normal murder cases.
As long as a Russian participation "based only on assumptions, hypotheses or unconfirmed allegations, it is our task, the state prosecutor on the ground to clarify this," Frank said in October of the TIME. "It's obvious that this is a contract killing, but the question is who's behind it."