The German Government today declared two Russian “diplomats” persona non grata. Given Berlin’s persistent attempts to improve relations with Russia, this comes as yet another blow to Moscow’s hopes of reaching some kind of understanding with the EU on a sustained basis and remove the sanctions originally imposed as a result of the Russian invasion of Crimea. Yet another screw up by the Russian intelligence services.
In Berlin on 23 August a man on a bicycle assassinated a former Chechen field commander, Khangoshvili, in broad daylight. Filmed as it happened by close circuit television cameras, the assassin was run to ground in hot pursuit and arrested.
The assassin had a Russian passport in the name of Vadim Sokolov. He had flown into Paris from Moscow with a Schengen visa enabling him to travel on to Berlin via Warsaw. The Russian authorities refused all co-operation in finding out anything about the assassin. That gave the authorities the key to understanding that this was evidently not some random event or act of private revenge.
Further research led to the discovery that the assassin had acquired identification on the eve of flying to Paris; that his name was actually Vadim Krasikov, not Sokolov. And Krasikov had actually assassinated someone else previously, on Russian soil, in exactly the same way on 19 June 2013 and afterwards fled from the Russian police who involved Interpol in a search for him. But then, unaccountably, all trace of Krasikov disappeared from police records between June and July 2015. He then took multiple air flights to various parts of Russia and Crimea, before he turned up in Berlin to murder someone else.
The obvious conclusion drawn by the German authorities is that, even if Krasikov had committed his original offence in service of the criminal underground, he was obviously recruited by one of the Russian security services – perhaps the (G)RU, which had most reason to avenge the humilations suffered in Chechnya – to repeat the deed, this time against a victim in Berlin. His bizarre conduct and the failure of the Russians to realise that this enterprise was bound to end in discovery suggests that little or nothing was learned from the Skrypal’ affair.
It is striking that all this is reported not only in Nezavisimaya gazeta in a relatively objective manner but also in Novaya gazeta in terms no different from Der Spiegel, Insider.ru and Bellingcat.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 04.12.2019 20:28:00
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