Russia expels two German diplomats in tit-for-tat move

The step comes after Germany expelled two Russian envoys over a Moscow-linked murder of a Georgian citizen in Berlin.

A car passes in front of a building of the German embassy in Moscow [File: Vasily Maximov/AFP]

Russia has ordered two German diplomats to leave in response to the expulsion of two Russian envoys after a German court’s ruling that blamed Moscow for the killing of a Georgian citizen in Berlin two years ago.

Moscow has angrily rejected the Berlin court’s verdict and the Russian foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador on Monday to inform him about the diplomats’ expulsion in what it said was a “symmetrical response to the unfriendly decision by the German government”.

The ministry warned that Russia will continue to respond in kind to any “potential confrontational moves by Berlin”.

It did not say when the German diplomats needed to leave Russia.

Judges at Berlin’s regional court on Wednesday convicted 56-year-old Vadim Krasikov of killing Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity.

They ruled that Krasikov had acted on the orders of Russian federal authorities, who provided him with a false identity, a fake passport and the resources to carry out the killing.

“The central government of the Russian Federation was the author of this crime,” presiding judge Olaf Arnoldi said, labelling the killing “state terrorism”.

Zelimkhan KhangoshviliKhangoshvili was buried in his native Duisi village in the Pankisi Gorge valley in Georgia [File: Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP]

The brazen daylight hit near Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23, 2019 sparked outrage in Berlin and prompted the German government to expel two other Russian diplomats at the time – a move Russia swiftly reciprocated.

Following the court’s decision, Germany expelled two more Russian diplomats with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calling the state-ordered killing a “grave breach of German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany”.

The German foreign ministry denounced the Russian move as “completely unfounded” and noted that the Russian diplomats’ expulsion last week was “an appropriate reaction” to the court’s verdict.

“The German government strives for an exchange with the Russian Federation on the basis of international law and mutual respect,” it said, adding that the Russian move “puts additional strain on this relationship”.

The brazen daylight hit near a park on August 23, 2019 sparked outrage in Berlin [File: Odd Andersen/AFP]

The ruling, which can be appealed, marked a new low point in Germany-Russia relations that are already fraught over Ukraine, Russian cyberattacks and Berlin’s support for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“We are seeing that Russia views Germany as an adversary and doesn’t seem interested in engagement,” Stefan Meister, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Berlin, told The Associated Press.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new government is still trying to find its foreign policy footing with Moscow, but the verdict and the growing tensions over Ukraine could increase domestic pressure for Germany to reconsider its support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is to bring gas from Russia straight to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, said Meister.

Source: News Agencies