Germany’s top prosecutor has accused Russia of ordering the murder of a Georgian man in a Berlin park, as they announced that a suspected contract killer has been charged over the killing.
The victim was a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen descent named by German officials as Tornike K. He was shot dead by a man on a bicycle in downtown Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23, 2019. Previously named as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, the former Chechen fighter had been on his way to midday prayers.
A Russian national was arrested within hours over the killing, setting off a murder mystery that has gripped Germany.
While the Kremlin has denied any connection between the murder and the Russian state, the shooting triggered an investigation which also raised uncomfortable questions about the relationship between the two countries.
Germany’s federal prosecutor took over the investigation in December. On Thursday, almost ten months after the murder, they said they had gathered sufficient evidence and brought charges against the suspect.
“At an unknown date before July 18, 2019, the accused received the order from authorities at the central government of the Russian Federation to liquidate the Georgian national of Chechen origin,” the prosecutor’s statement reads.
The suspect, named as Vladim K., is accused of the murder and of illegal possession of a weapon, the statement added.
“The indictment by the federal prosecutor contains serious accusations regarding the involvement of Russian state authorities in the so-called Tiergarten murder case,” a German government spokesperson said Thursday, adding: “The Federal Government takes this very seriously.”
The spokesperson said the German government would “carefully monitor” the rest of the trial until a verdict was reached, adding that two members of the Russian embassy were expelled in December in connection to the case, and that recently Germany had taken steps against Russia in connection with the hacking attack on the German Bundestag in 2015.
“The German government reserves the right to take further steps,” the statement concluded.
Nadine Schmidt reported from Berlin, Zamira Rahim wrote in London.