Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the recent murder of Tornike Kavtarashvili known as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park, at a press conference in Paris on December 9, following the negotiations between the French, German, Ukrainian and Russian leaders within the so called Normandy format.
Russian President’s comment comes amid diplomatic row between Berlin and Moscow over Georgian national Khangoshvili’s killing by Russian national. The German authorities found the trace of Russian special services in the murder and earlier in December, expelled two Russian diplomats for failing to cooperate with the investigation into the case.
- Germany Declares two Russian Embassy Employees Non-Gratae for non-Cooperation on Khangoshvili Murder case
Putin said yesterday that Khangoshvili was wanted by the Russian Federation for multiple crimes. “This man was actively participating in the hostilities in the Caucasus on the side of separatists. He [was] a mercenary, very cruel and bloody. He has killed 98 persons during one incident. He was one of the organizers of an explosion in the Moscow Metro,” Putin said, noting that Khangoshvili was not “Georgian by nationality.”
The Russian President also commented on the circumstances around Khangoshvili’s murder. “I do not know what happened to him. The question is about the bandit group and anything may happen there,” he said, slamming the German government for expelling Russian diplomats.
“It is incorrect to expel diplomats who have nothing to do with this case only based on preliminary assumptions,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will take reciprocal steps and expel German diplomats from the country. “There is nothing good in it,” he noted, saying that he does not expect that it will cause any crisis in Russian-German relations.
“We will do our best to assist our German counterparts in clarifying the issue,” Putin said, noting that it would have been better if Moscow and Berlin had cooperated not only “in such tragic circumstances”, but earlier too. “The Russian side has numerously raised the issue of handing over this bandit, murderer, but unfortunately, we failed to reach a mutual understanding,” he added.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, 40, from Georgia’s ethnic Kist/Chechen community, was shot dead in Berlin in August by Russian national. In early 2000s, Khangoshvili fought in second Chechen war against Russia, as well as fought against Russian forces during Russo-Georgian war of 2008. Khangoshvili fled to Germany soon after surviving an assassination attempt in Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2015.
Germany’s chief prosecutor overtook investigation in early December. Suspecting the murder on German soil was ordered by Russia, German authorities declared two Russian diplomats persona non-gratae. German media compares the Khangoshvili murder to attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK last year.
The Georgian authorities remain silent about Khangoshvili’s murder.
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