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Khangoshvili murder trial kicks off in Berlin

8 October 2020

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was gunned down in a park in Berlin in August 2019; a man German authorities say is Vadim Krasikov went on trial for the killing on Wednesday.

The crime scene is located only a few hundred metres from the court building where the trial of Russian citizen Vadim Krasikov has now begun. On 23 August 2019, he is said to have shot Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian from the Pankisi Valley.

It was not just a simple murder. The Federal Prosecutor General (Generalbundesanwalt) alleges that it was Russian state terrorism: That the accused acted on behalf of state authorities and expected a reward for his actions. Or, says Federal Prosecutor General Ronald Georg, he shared the motives of the Russian state and saw in Khangoshvili an opponent of Russia who was to be murdered.

The accused sits behind a glass screen in Room 700 of the Berlin Regional Court. Three lawyers defend him. Opposite him sit four lawyers, who represent eight family members of Khangoshvili as joint plaintiffs.

When Attorney General Georg describes the course of events at the arraignment, one of Khangoshvili’s sisters bursts into tears. The accused followed the arraignment attentively but remained unmoved.

The Attorney General says that Krasikov approached Khangoshvili on a bicycle and shot him from the side with a Glock pistol.  When Khangoshvili fell to the ground, he shot two more times at the head of the injured man, killing him. 

However, Krasikov, it is alleged, was seen. Witnesses called the police, who immediately arrested him. Since then, Krasikov has been in custody. So far he has remained silent.

In court, however, he briefly confirmed what his lawyer explained on his behalf: his name is not Vadim Krasikov, he does not know any man of that name. Rather, his name is Vadim Sokolov. This name is written in the Russian passport with which he entered Germany. 

The prosecution says that Russian authorities forged this passport for Krasikov and provided him with an identity as Vadim Sokolov. The investigators came across Krasikov when they searched old wanted photographs from the Russian authorities. Years ago, Krasikov had been wanted for murder.

The public prosecutor’s office says that Khangoshvili fought in the Chechen war.  He is also alleged to have trained terrorists in Georgia for operations against Russia. Evidence of this has not yet been released.

In a recent interview with the author in Munich, former President Mikhail Saakashvili only confirmed that Khangoshvili mediated between the government and the Kists in the Pankisi Valley when problems arose and that he always tried to mediate in disputes.

Shortly before his death, Khangoshvili was in contact with Saakashvili’s wife, Sandra Roelofs. She wanted help the Chechen diaspora in Europe and therefore wanted to come to Berlin. Saakashvili said that Khangoshvili was due to pick up Roelofs from the train station on the day of his murder to introduce her to Chechens in Berlin.

Khangoshvili’s relatives are certain that Russia is behind the murder. They have demanded that the authorities clarify who his accomplices were in Berlin and elsewhere.

For Krasikov could hardly have committed the crime alone. Not only was his passport allegedly provided to him, someone must have gotten him the bicycle and the gun as well. Someone must have scouted out where Khangoshvili was. For Krasikov only arrived in Berlin one day before the crime.

The trial is scheduled to last until the end of January. although it may be extended.

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