Russian assassin sentenced to death for killing a Chechen rebel commander under orders from Moscow.  

Vadim Krsikov, 56 years old, went by the alias Vadim Sokololov and was found guilty in August 2019 for killing Zelimkhan Khangoshvili (40) at Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten.    

Berlin’s regional court said Krasikov carried out the killing on the orders of the Russian state, having entered the country on a fake French-issued passport, and sentenced him to life in prison.  

According to the court, Krasikov was provided by Russian security services with fake identity and passport as well as the necessary resources for the execution of the 2019. Russian participation in the Berlin murders has been denied by the Kremlin. 

The 2019 Murder This sparked anger in Germany, and inflamed diplomatic tensions in Berlin and Moscow.   

Khangoshvili (who had sought asylum in Germany) led troops against Russia during the Second Chechen War. Moscow considered Khangoshvili a terrorist.       

Vadim Krasikov

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili

Vadim Krasikov, 55 (left), was jailed for life by a German court for shooting dead Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40 (right), in a Berlin park in 2019

The defense lawyers asked for the court’s acquittal of their client who claimed that he was misidentified. 

Judges ruled that Krasikov borne a ‘particularly serious responsibility’ for the murder, so he won’t be eligible to automatic parole in Germany after the 15-year period. 

German law allowed the victims’ relatives to be present at the trial as coplaintiffs. Last week, Russia was accused of sending a message to political enemies by killing Khangoshvili. Khangoshvili claimed asylum in Germany in 2003. 

According to prosecutors, Krasikov was sent by the Russian government under Vadim Sokololov’s alias in Berlin for an alleged state-contracted murder. 

Krasikov shot Khangoshvili with a silencer-fitted pistol in broad daylight at the Berlin park.  

Khangoshvili being on the ground, Krasikov is alleged to have fired two additional bullets at his head and killed him. 

Khangoshvili – who was identified by German authorities using a pseudonym, Tornike Kavtarashvili – had been on his way to Friday prayers when he was killed.

Witnesses saw him throw a bike and gun in the Spree river near the scene. Police were alerted and quickly arrested the suspect before he could take off with an electric scooter that was parked in front of a doorway.   

Two Russian diplomats were murdered in Germany, prompting the German government and Moscow to do the same.  

Judge said that the Russian Federation’s state organs took the decision in June 2019 to exterminate Tornike Kangoshvili at Berlin.

“Four children lost the father of their brothers, and two sisters their brother.” 

Khangoshvili (right, with former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, left) led troops against Russian in the Second Chechen War, and was considered a terrorist by Moscow

Khangoshvili (right, with former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, left) led troops against Russian in the Second Chechen War, and was considered a terrorist by Moscow

Dmitry Peskov – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, called Russian claims that Russia was involved in the Berlin massacre ‘absolutely baseless’.

After meeting Angela Merkel, then the Chancellor, Putin stated that the victim was a bandit and a murderer. He also accused him of killing many people in fighting in the Caucasus. 

Investigative website Bellingcat revealed Krasikov’s real identity. It said that he was born in Kazakhstan during the Soviet Union and moved to Siberia.

The website stated that he was trained by the Russian intelligence service FSB, and was part its elite squad.

According to Der Spiegel Weekly, days before August 2019, he had been acting as tourist and visited Paris sights, including the Eiffel Tower, before heading to Warsaw.

According to the report, he also visited the Polish capital after which he disappeared on August 22 without leaving his hotel. 

After being arrested in Germany, police found his mobile phone and a return flight ticket for Moscow on August 25 in his hotel room in Warsaw, Spiegel reported. 

Krasikov shot Khangoshvili from behind with a silencer-fitted handgun in broad daylight in the Berlin park (scene, pictured)

Krasikov fired a gun with silencer in his handgun at Khangoshvili in broad daylight, in Berlin’s park. (scene, pictured).

Putin described the victim to be a “fighter, very cruel, and bloody” who had been fighting separatists in the Caucasus against Russian forces and had also participated in bombing attacks at the Moscow metro.

Moscow claimed that it was also seeking his extradition.

At a moment when the new government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz struggles to establish its foreign policy position with Moscow, the outcome of this trial may spark tensions again between Germany and Russia. 

Last year, German-Russian relations suffered a more severe blow after Merkel flew poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from Moscow to Berlin to receive medical treatment. Russian agents claimed that Navalny was poisoned, but Moscow disputes this claim. 

Navalny was sent back to Germany and sentenced to 2 1/2 years for violating his probation during his convalescing period in Germany.

Annalena Baerbock is the new German foreign minister. She has called for tougher sanctions against Russia due to its militarization near Ukraine. 

Scholz calls for an entirely new “Ostpolitik” – or policy towards the east – that is different from the one Willy Brandt (Social Democratic chancellor) pursued during Cold War.