Germany expels Russian diplomats over Berlin murder

Forensic experts scour the crime scene in a park in Berlin's Moabit district

Germany expelled two Russian diplomats in response to what it says is a lack of cooperation by Moscow in the investigation of the killing of a Georgian man in Berlin.

"In this way the German government reacted to the fact that the Russian authorities, in defiance of repeated and insistent demands at a high level, insufficiently cooperated in the investigation of the killing in Berlin's Tiergarten, committed on August 23", the document runs.

"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.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who had previously fought alongside anti-Moscow separatists in Chechnya, was shot twice in the head in a central Berlin park in August as he was heading to a mosque.

The suspected perpetrator, a 49-year-old Russian national, is believed to have carried out a drive-by shooting by bicycle in broad daylight.

German prosecutors said there was "currently no evidence" to suggest Khangoshvili was killed by "non-state actors".

Federal prosecutors in charge of intelligence cases said they had taken over the investigation from Berlin authorities.

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Russia, which denies any involvement, responded swiftly, saying it would retaliate for what it called Germany's "unfriendly" move.

In its statement on Wednesday (in German), the German federal prosecutor identified the victim as "Tornike K".

German media said the suspicion was that Russian intelligence agencies had recruited him.

The victim, Khangoshvili, was a Georgian national, who had fought against Russian Federation in the second Chechen war in 2001-2005, and had fled to Germany after surviving two attempts on his life in Georgia in 2009 and 2015.

Khangoshvili fled to Germany after surviving an assassination attempt in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2015.

Manana Tsatieva, Khangoshvili's ex-wife, told German global broadcaster Deutsche Welle that she believes her late husband's history likely motivated the attack.

The assassination in Berlin echoes the attempted murder of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England past year. The attempted murder on British soil led to a breakdown in diplomatic relations between London and Moscow.

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