German federal prosecutors are preparing to take over the case related to the slaying of an ethnic Chechen Georgian national in Berlin this summer, according to media reports, amid suspicions that Russian intelligence was involved in the killing.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40, who had previously fought alongside separatists in Russia’s Chechnya region, was shot twice in the head in Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23.
A Russian national suspected of carrying out the killing was arrested shortly afterward.
“The Federal Prosecutor’s Office suspects Russian state agencies of having commissioned the murder,” the German weekly Der Spiegel reported, adding that federal prosecutors were preparing to step in “in the coming days.”
Other German media and Reuters, citing sources, also reported that federal prosecutors would step in this week.
“We have evidence that a foreign intelligence agency was behind” the killing, Reuters quoted a German legal source as saying.
German media have drawn parallels between Khangoshvili’s assassination and the 2018 poisoning in England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
Russia denies state involvement in both incidents.
Khangoshvili fought in the Second Chechen War in 1999-2002 against Russian national forces alongside notorious field commander Shamil Basayev and was reportedly close to Aslan Maskhadov, who had briefly served as president of Chechnya.
The suspect operated under the alias Vadim Adreyevich Sokolov, using a passport whose number is linked to Russian security services, notably GRU military intelligence, according to a joint investigation by Der Spiegel, The Insider in Russia, and British online investigators Bellingcat.
However, the suspect’s real identity isn’t known, according to the joint report published on August 30.
It said nobody existed with the name of the alleged assassin in the Russian national passport register.
A Bellingcat investigation alleges that three officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service attempted to kill Skripal and his daughter with a highly toxic nerve agent.
Two of the three alleged officers are wanted by the British authorities for questioning.
Skripal and his daughter survived the poisoning in Salisbury, England, but a British woman with no connections to Russia died, apparently after accidentally coming into contact with the substance.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP