Russian Is Convicted in Murder of Chechen Man in a Berlin Park

BERLIN — A German court sentenced a Russian man to life in prison on Wednesday for the murder of a former Chechen separatist fighter in the summer of 2019, saying that the attack in broad daylight in a Berlin park had been orchestrated by the Russian government.

The convicted man, identified by the German authorities as Vadim N. Krasikov, 55, maintained before and during the trial that he had no links to the Russian state, but German officials believe that he was an employee of the Russian Federal Security Service, a spy agency known by its initials, F.S.B.

“The act was meticulously prepared by aides stationed in Berlin,” the head judge, Olas Arnoldi, said when reading the sentence in a Berlin courtroom.

The victim was a 40-year-old refugee named Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen separatist commander whom the Russian state media had labeled a terrorist. The murder of the man, known by the alias Tonike K. in German court documents, strained relations between Germany and Russia and led to diplomatic expulsions on both sides.

Mr. Krasikov, who called himself Vadim A. Sokolov and had a Russian passport in that name, was arrested after two witnesses saw him throwing his bike and a bag into the Spree River after shooting the victim at least twice. Police divers later found a Glock 26 pistol in the river in the park, a little over a mile away from the chancellor’s office.

The Berlin police distributed an image of the suspect in 2019. Credit…Berlin police department

The verdict came on the same day that Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was sworn in as Germany’s new leader last week, delivered his first speech to Parliament. In his address, he warned that Russia would pay a “high price” for any “violation of territorial integrity,” although he did not mention the killing or the verdict.

In making its decision, the court not only convicted Mr. Krarikov, but also backed an assertion by Germany’s federal prosecutor that the killing was carried out with the Russian government’s involvement.

“There are sufficient, real indications that the killing of Tornike K. was carried out either on orders by the officials in the Russian Federation or those in the autonomous Chechen Republic, as part of the Russian Republic,” the prosecutor said in 2019 when it took over the case from the local authorities.

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