Moscow announced on Thursday it will expel two German diplomats from Moscow in response to Berlin ordering two Russian embassy workers to leave Germany last week. Russia’s foreign ministry said that the two diplomats would have seven days to leave the country.
The Kremlin’s retaliation will further escalate the diplomatic tensions between the two nations over the murder of a Georgian exile in a central Berlin park in August this year.
The German Foreign office expelled two Russian diplomats on 4 December “with immediate effect” after federal prosecutor took over the investigation into the death of 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili — a former Chechen rebel commando with Georgian nationality.
Khangoshvili had been shot in broad daylight in a park by a man wearing a wig, who approached on a bicycle. Eye witness accounts helped the police to arrest the alleged killer, who is now being held in prison in Berlin.
The German 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.” Russia maintains it was not behind the murder.
Russian president Vladimir Putin called Khangoshvili a “bandit” during a press conference with chancellor Angela Merkel after their Ukraine-conflict meeting on Monday evening.
Putin said that the man was a “blood-thirsty and brutal” person, who had been sought for a murder in Russia, and accused German authorities of refusing Moscow’s requests to extradite the man. The German government said it was not aware of such a request.
According to an investigation by Bellingcat and Der Spiegel, the alleged murderer entered Germany under the passport name Vadim Sokolov, but his real name is Vadim Krasikov and is a suspect in the 2013 murder of a Russian businessman in Moscow.