In front of the Berlin court where the trial of the alleged Russian agent is being held.
TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP
The highly political trial of a Russian suspected of having killed a Chechen opponent in Berlin on alleged orders from Moscow began Wednesday in the German capital amid diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
The man, designated by the prosecution as Vadim Krasikov or Vadim Sokolov, appears for having shot dead in the summer of 2019 a Georgian from the Chechen minority in the country who was 40 years old and identified as Tornike Kavtarashvili.
He faces a life sentence.
The murder took place in broad daylight in the heart of Berlin, in the Tiergarten park.
Asked about his identity at the start of the hearing, the 55-year-old accused did not wish to speak himself but indicated by a statement read by one of his lawyers, Robert Unger, that he was called Vadim Sokolov, that he was "Russian, single and a construction engineer".
He therefore denied his name is Vadim Krasikov.
“I don't know anyone by that name,” the lawyer said.
According to the federal prosecutor's office, in charge of terrorism and espionage cases, the accused was assigned to “liquidate” the Georgian on behalf of “organizations linked to the central government of the Russian Federation”.
Russia has denied any involvement.
And the alleged perpetrator has so far kept silent on the facts.
The affair has plagued German-Russian relations for over a year.
Frictions have increased even more recently after the probable poisoning at the end of August of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, who has since taken refuge in Berlin for treatment.
A court specializing in matters relating to state security from the Berlin court is responsible for conducting the trial, which should last at least until the end of January 2021. According to the prosecution, the suspected hitman would have completed a " State mission, either to be paid, or because he shared the motivations of his clients to kill a political opponent (…) and as retaliation for his involvement "in a conflict against Russia.
Facts dating back to summer 2019
The facts took place on August 23, 2019, around noon, according to the indictment: the Russian, traveling by bicycle, approached his victim and fired a first time from a distance with a silencer, before finish him off with two bullets at close range to the head.
Witnesses spoke of an "execution".
He was arrested near the scene the same day after being observed disposing of his bicycle and weapon in the River Spree.
He has been in prison ever since.
According to the magazine Der Spiegel and the investigative journalism platform Bellingcat, Vadim Krasikov, according to the identity revealed by the German magazine, would have received training from the Russian secret service FSB.
A former Chechen separatist leader, the downed Georgian had fought against Russian forces between 2000 and 2004 and since 2016 had lived with his family in Germany where he had applied for asylum, after surviving two assassination attempts in his country original.
President Vladimir Putin called him a "very cruel and bloodthirsty fighter".
Russia has claimed to have requested his extradition.
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