German prosecutors on Thursday filed murder charges against a Russian man accused of the killing in broad daylight of a Georgian man in Berlin, saying said that the Russian state ordered the killing – adding to tensions between the two countries.
The case prompted Germany in December to expel two Russian diplomats, citing a lack of cooperation with the investigation of the Aug. 23 killing. Russia's ambassador was called in to the foreign ministry in Berlin again on Thursday.
The victim, Tornike K., who also has widely been identified in reports on the killing as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was a Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity who fought against Russian troops in Chechnya. He had previously survived multiple assassination attempts and continued to receive threats after fleeing to Germany in 2016.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors filed charges of murder and a violation of weapons laws against a Russian citizen they identified as Vadim K., alias Vadim S.
They said that, at some point before mid-July last year, "state agencies of the central government of the Russian Federation” tasked him with "liquidating” the victim.
The suspect "accepted the state killing assignment,” prosecutors said in a statement. "He either hoped for a financial reward or he shared the motives of those who tasked him to kill a political opponent and take revenge for his participation in earlier conflicts with Russia.”
Prosecutors say that the killer approached Tornike K. from behind on a bike in the small Kleiner Tiergarten park and shot him three times. The suspect was arrested near the scene shortly afterward and has been in custody ever since.
The murder case and alleged Russian involvement in the 2015 hacking of the German parliament have weighed on relations between the two countries in recent months. Last month, Germany said it was seeking European Union sanctions against a Russian man over his alleged role in the hacking.
Speaking to reporters in Vienna on Thursday, after the prosecutors' announcement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, "We once again invited the Russian ambassador for a meeting at the foreign ministry today to make our position unmistakably clear again to the Russian side, and the German government expressly reserves the right to take further measures in this case.”