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Bellingcat Says FSB Behind 2019 Berlin Killing Of Former Chechen Separatist Commander

February 17, 2020

The investigative journalism group Bellingcat says an investigation into the 2019 killing of a former Chechen separatist commander in Berlin shows the attack was planned and organized by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was shot dead in broad daylight in a Berlin park on August 23 in a case that has prompted political fallout between Berlin and Moscow -- including tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, after Germany said evidence suggests either the Russian government or authorities in the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya likely ordered the killing. Moscow denies the allegations of the German government.

A suspect who'd traveled to Germany on a Russian passport issued in the name of Vadim Sokolov was detained by police in Berlin shortly after the killing,

He is now on trial in a German court on charges of murder and weapons violations. In December, Bellingcat identified him as Vadim Krasikov -- a man also suspected in the 2013 killing in Moscow of a Russian businessman.

Many commentators have drawn parallels between Khangoshvili's assassination and the 2018 poisoning in Salisbury, England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

In a report following a month-long probe, Bellingcat said it found that preparation for the killing of Khangoshvili was supervised directly by Eduard Bendersky, chairman of the Vympel Charitable Fund For Former FSB Spetsnaz Officers, and other senior members of the fund.

Bellingcat said phone metadata it obtained shows that a plot to kill Khangoshvili with Krasikov as the assassin "was in the works no later than March 2019."

The investigative group said billing records show that starting in early 2019 and ending just before his trip to Berlin, Krasikov was in frequent communication with as many as eight members of the Vympel Association of Former FSB Spetsnaz Officers. It said three of the people Krasikov communicated hold senior positions within the organization.

According to Bellingcat, Bendersky casts himself as a former officer of the FSB spetsnaz -- or special military force -- and as the current owner of several private security companies that employ ex-spetsnaz soldiers.

He also appears often on Russian state media as a de facto spokesman for Department V -- the FSB successor to the former KGB Vympel unit which, in his words, has recast itself from overseas subversive operations into domestic anti-terror operations against insurgent groups in the Russian North Caucasus region.

Khangoshvili, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, was part of the separatist insurgency against Russian forces in Chechnya.

His killing fits a pattern of assassinations targeting former Chechen insurgents that have shown signs of Russian state involvement.

Khangoshvili was shot dead by a gunmen who approached him on a bicycle in Berlin's Kleiner Tiergarten park.

Bellingcat said in a December 3 report that Krasikov's records have been purged from Russian state databases.

Source: 019-berlin-killing-of-former-chechen -separatist-commander/30439907.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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