Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after federal prosecutors alleged that an August killing of a Georgian national in Berlin was the handiwork of either Moscow or the Russian republic of Chechnya, Time magazine reported.
On Aug. 23, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian man, was fatally shot in a Berlin park while he was on his way to a mosque, according to Time.
German authorities say Khangoshvili also went by the name Tornike K. and that he was on a Russian terrorist list, with Moscow believing him to be a member of an extremist organization called Caucasus Emirate. Tornike reportedly fought Russian troops in Chechnya and fled to Germany in 2016.
Russia has denied the allegations, and Sergey Nechaev, Russia’s ambassador to Germany, has threatened ramifications for the expulsion of the two diplomats.
“Such German action will have a strong negative impact on the Russian-German relations and naturally will not be left unanswered,” Nechaev said in a statement.
Relations were already tense between the two countries as Germany maintains its sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and Berlin works to build a joint pipeline that would see Russian oil transported directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Time reported.
German prosecutors believe that a 48-year-old Russian man named Vadim K., also known as Vadim Sokolov, is responsible for Khangoshvili’s death.
The prosecutors claim that they have significant evidence that shows Vadim was backed by an official power and was not a “nonstate actor.”
“There are enough indications of the fact that the death of Tornike K. was either contracted by government offices of the Russian Federation or the autonomous Chechen Republic as part of the Russian Federation,” Markus Schmitt, spokesperson for prosecutors, told The Associated Press.
Schmitt’s office took over the investigation from Berlin prosecutors after the possible political motive became clear, Time reported.
When this happened, Germany’s Foreign Ministry announced the two Russian diplomats would be expelled from the country, saying that the pair failed to cooperate with the investigation.
“Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation,” Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin signs crackdown on foreign-sponsored journalists Kennedy doubles down on alleged Ukraine meddling amid criticism Schumer: Claim that Ukraine meddled in 2016 election ‘is a lie’ MORE’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the allegations “absolutely groundless.”