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World Berlin Assassin Trail Could Lead to Russia, German Authorities Say

05:55  04 december  2019
05:55  04 december  2019 Source:   online.wsj.com

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BERLIN — German prosecutors now believe the murder of a Chechen rebel in Berlin this summer was likely linked to the Kremlin, according to an official The German government has so far declined to speculate on the identity of the suspected killer, an unidentified Russian man who was arrested by

The strange, midday murder in Berlin drew speculation of Russian involvement from the outset. Germany 's chief prosecutor is now reportedly involved She remains convinced Russia is responsible for her ex-husband's death but is hopeful that German authorities will bring the perpetrator to justice.

a man looking at the camera© berlin police department handout/Shutterstock

BERLIN—German prosecutors now believe the murder of a Chechen rebel in Berlin this summer was likely linked to the Kremlin, according to an official familiar with the investigation, putting pressure on Berlin to punish Moscow.

The German government has so far declined to speculate on the identity of the suspected killer, an unidentified Russian man who was arrested by German police just after the murder on Aug. 23.

But with investigators now putting the Kremlin at the center of their case, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government could be forced to retaliate with diplomatic or other sanctions, possibly endangering Germany’s close energy partnership with Russia.

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In its previous joint investigations with Spiegel, The Insider and Dossier Center, Bellingcat has reported that the person held by German authorities over the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin traveled from Moscow to Germany under a fake identity.

Russia has not responded to the reports, although a spokesman did say in August that the killing had nothing to do with Russia or its authorities . Investigative website Bellingcat says Mr Sokolov does not exist and was given a tax ID number days before he applied for a Schengen visa to travel to the EU.

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German investigators think they have now identified the suspect and that his identity could link him to the Russian government, a prosecution official said.

In an indication of that high-stakes context, the investigation is now set to be transferred from Berlin prosecutors to the federal prosecutor, who handles cases relevant to national security, according to two prosecution officials. The transfer could happen as early as Wednesday, they say.

Berlin prosecutors have so far conducted the investigation as a normal criminal case. And the government has been careful not to point fingers at Russia even as media coverage and the U.S. government suggested a link.

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The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the U.S. government believed Russia was responsible for the assassination and that U.S. services had shared intelligence about the case with their German counterparts.

Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, the BKA, as well as the CIA’s counterpart, the BND, have been helping with the investigation, according to several officials.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen rebel who held Georgian nationality and had sought but been denied asylum in Germany, is one in a string of Kremlin opponents who have been assassinated or attacked outside Russia in recent years.

Mr. Khangoshvili was gunned down in a busy park while on his way to a local mosque. The suspect, arrested shortly thereafter, carried a Russian passport in the name of Vadim Sokolov. Investigators said at the time they believed the passport was real but the identity was fake.

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Germany is reportedly to open a formal investigation into suspicions Russia was behind the killing of a man in central Berlin earlier this year. German authorities have yet to publicly comment, but according to local press reports they are convinced a Russian national held over the killing was acting

BERLIN (Reuters) - German federal prosecutors believe Russian intelligence was involved in the August killing of a Georgian citizen in Berlin The measure could raise tensions between Germany — and other western countries — and Russia , after strains over the poisoning of a former Russian

One official said investigators have now made a breakthrough by establishing the suspect’s real identity. The official said the suspect is believed to have been involved in another murder in Russia but offered no details.

News of the breakthrough was first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel on Tuesday.

The suspect was visited once in custody by two diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Berlin but had no other dealings with Russian authorities since his arrest, according to one German official.

Prosecutors declined to comment on a report by the investigative-journalism website Bellingcat that the suspect’s real name is Vadim Nikolaevich Krasikov, born Aug. 10, 1965. Bellingcat reported that the Berlin suspect had been investigated in Russia for a 2013 murder of a Russian businessman, but that the investigation—which involved an Interpol notice issued after he was believed to have fled the country—had been shut down in 2015.

An American official said Berlin was reluctant to point a finger at Russia lest it complicate already fraught bilateral relations. Germany spearheaded European efforts to sanction Russia after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, but it also maintains close cooperation with Moscow in the energy sector. A senior German government official said prosecutors were operating without any political interference.

Last year, after the attempted assassination of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, the U.S. and allied NATO governments blamed the incident on the Russian military intelligence service GRU and expelled some 100 Russian diplomats in response.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is set to meet Vladimir Putin of Russia in Paris on Monday. German officials declined to say whether the investigation would be discussed.

Officials in Moscow weren’t immediately available for comment but authorities have previously denied that Russia had any involvement in the matter.

According to the Russian state news agencies, TASS and RIA Novosti, the Russian Embassy in Berlin said Tuesday it hadn’t received any new information from German or Russian law-enforcement agencies regarding the case.

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