Kremlin denies role in 'execution' of Georgian in Berlin

Telegram från AFP / Omni
28 aug. 2019, 17.06

The Kremlin on Wednesday denied any involvement in the assassination-style killing in a Berlin park of a Georgian man who had fought against Russian forces in Chechnya.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40, was shot dead on Friday after an assassination attempt four years ago led to him fleeing Georgia.

German police have arrested a 49-year-old suspect from Russia's Chechnya republic, where Moscow waged two bloody wars that lasted until 2009.

"This case has nothing to do with the Russian state or official agencies," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"I categorically deny any link between this killing and Russian officials," he said, adding that the foreign ministry would be better placed to comment on the arrest of a Russian citizen abroad.

German media said the murder was believed to be a revenge killing related to the victim's military past.

Berlin was examining the case very closely for clues that foreign secret services might have been involved, according to Spiegel Online.

A security source told the magazine that they were "100 percent certain" that Russia was behind the killing.

"If it turns out that a state player such as Russia is behind the act, then we have a second Skripal case with all the consequences," reported Spiegel, quoting another unnamed security source.

The West has accused Russia of masterminding killings and assassination attempts abroad, including against ex-spies Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal in Britain.

Khangoshvili was reportedly a veteran of the second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009, where he served as a field commander from 2001 to 2005, and later joined a Georgian counter-terrorist unit.

In 2012, his Georgian special forces unit engaged in an operation against militants holding hostages in the remote Lopota gorge near the border with Russia's Dagestan republic.

Quoting Georgian and Ukrainian sources, Spiegel reported that Khangoshvili infiltrated Islamist groups and passed on information to the authorities.

But Russian authorities had classed him as a member of the jihadist group "Caucasus Emirate", said the magazine.

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