- Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former militant active against Russia, was shot dead in Berlin last week.
- Investigators in the country believe that Russia may have been involved. The killing bears hallmarks pointing toward a state-backed attack.
- Russia is still an international pariah after it was blamed for the attempted assassination in the UK of the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
- If the link to Russia is confirmed, it would confirm why other nations are reluctant to readmit Russia to the G7 group of nations, an idea floated repeatedly by President Donald Trump.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
German investigators strongly suspect Russian government involvement in the apparent brazen assassination of a former Chechen rebel turned asylum seeker in a central Berlin park last week.
This kind of attack could well prove the latest in a series of killings linked to the Kremlin.
If so, it would be another reminder of why opposition in Europe is so great to readmitting Russia to the G7 group of major world economies, an idea suggested recently by President Donald Trump.
The victim was Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian citizen of Chechen descent. He was fatally shot in the head last Friday as he walked through a central Berlin park around lunchtime, according to the German news service Deutsche Welle.
Witnesses say a man, later identified as a Russian citizen, shot Khangoshvili twice in the head with a silenced Glock pistol. He was caught by the police as he tried to make his escape via electric scooter.
Officers say he was carrying large amounts of cash, a Russian passport, and a ticket to Moscow.
The suspect, identified only as Vadim S., 49, had arrived in Berlin from Paris a few days before the killing, German prosecutors said.
He is being investigated over potential links to Russian security services, according to statements made by prosecutors.
Khangoshvili had fled his native Georgia in the past five years to seek asylum in Germany after at least two attempts on his life by unknown assailants.
A Georgian official confirmed to Business Insider some of his history: that Khangoshvili was instrumental in negotiating a peaceful solution to an armed standoff and hostage situation between Georgian government troops and Chechen militants in 2012 in a remote mountainous region along the border with Russia.
Despite living under an alias in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, for years with some government protection, Khangoshvili survived at least two assassination attempts before attempting to receive asylum in Germany.
The Russian government approved a law in 2006 that authorizes foreign assassinations of anyone believed to be a “terrorist threat” to the Russian state.
Khangoshvili would easily qualify for this in the eyes of Russian security services, given his longtime role as a commander and militant with Chechen forces fighting Russia for independence.
While Russia has never acknowledged using the assassination law, President Vladimir Putin’s government is widely suspected of having ordered and conducted targeted killings repeatedly.
The highest-profile recent example was the attempted assassination in the UK of the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
That attempt, which involved a secret nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, left the UK government livid. A police officer and an innocent bystander were poisoned by what investigators discovered was a clumsy plan by two suspected Russian intelligence officers to spray the nerve agent on Skripal’s door.
Skripal, his daughter, and a police officer were all infected but eventually recovered. One woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after exposure to the agent via discarded trash.
With the backing of numerous NATO allies, the UK forced scores of Russian diplomats suspected of espionage out of Europe as a response to the Skripal attack.
If the Khangoshvili killing is definitively linked to the Russian security services, it would further erode the relationship between Western Europe and Russia, a relationship that has already been torn apart by not only the Skripal plot but also the 2014 Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea.
As a result of that occupation, Russia was widely sanctioned across Europe and kicked out of the G8 group of the world’s leading economies, which became the G7.
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