MAINZ, Germany — Germany has expelled two Russian diplomats after federal prosecutors concluded that there were "enough indications" that either the Kremlin or the Moscow-backed Chechen government were behind the brazen daytime slaying of a Georgian national.
"Tornike K." was making his way to a mosque when he was shot twice in the head in Berlin's Tiergarten park shortly before midday Aug. 23, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
There were “enough indications” that the killing was “either contracted by government offices of the Russian Federation or the autonomous Chechen republic as a part of the Russian Federation," spokesman Markus Schmitt said.
Due to the political nature of the case, he added that his office had decided to take over the investigation from Berlin state prosecutors. While German law enforcement rarely releases the last names of those involved in a crime, the victim was named by a wide variety of publications.
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Moscow has denied any involvement with the murder, but immediately after the prosecutor's statement, the German Foreign Ministry announced the expulsion of two Russian diplomats, citing a lack of cooperation with the investigation.
"Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation," it said in a statement. It did not identify the names or the functions of the two diplomats being expelled.
Prosecutors said Tornike K., who had previously fought alongside anti-Moscow separatists in Chechnya, “was classified and sought by Russian authorities as a terrorist.”
The Kremlin had accused the 40-year-old of being a member of a terror organisation called “Caucasian Emirate.”
He had previously survived multiple assassination attempts and continued to receive threats after fleeing to Germany.
Police said they arrested Vadim K., a 48-year-old Russian national, shortly after the murder. Prosecutors say facial recognition technology was used to track and identify him.
Prosecutors added that there were multiple indications that Vadim K. carried out the attempt with official help and no evidence that the hit was "contracted by a non-state actor."
Calling allegations of Russian involvement "absolutely groundless suggestions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that there are "no serious suspicions there, and there can't be."
He added: "What do Russian authorities have to do with it?"
Andy Eckardt is a producer based in Mainz, Germany. He started this role in 1994.