Germany expelled two diplomats in the Russian embassy on Wednesday, as the state prosecutor begins its investigation into the daylight assassination of a Georgian man in a Berlin park in August.
The federal prosecutor took up the case earlier this week, to investigate suspected Kremlin links to the murder of 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen rebel commando with Georgian nationality, who had fought against Russia in the second Chechen war in 2001-2005.
The prosecutor’s office said there was "sufficient factual evidence" that the man had been shot dead "on behalf of state agencies of the Russian Federation.”
The German Foreign Office ordered the two Russian intelligence agents to leave the country with immediate effect. "The foreign ministry has today declared two employees of the Russian embassy in Berlin as personae non grata with immediate effect," the ministry said in a statement.
The Kremlin has denied any links to the murder
According to the German Press Agency, the Russian Foreign minsistry described the expulsion of its diplomats by Germany as “unfriendly” and “unfounded” and said it will now tale retaliatory steps.
According to an investigation by Bellingcat and Der Spiegel, the alleged murderer travelled to Germany on a passport under the name Vadim Sokolov, but his real name is Vadim Krasikov and is a suspect in the 2013 murder of a Russian businessman in Moscow.
The assassination in Berlin echoes the attempted murder of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England last year. Two Russian agents attempted to murder the former Russian spy, leading to a total breakdown in diplomatic relations between London and Moscow.