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Baerbock Expels Russian Diplomats After Verdict in Berlin Murder Case

Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock just declared two Russian diplomats undesirable aliens. They have a week to leave the country. This is Berlin’s first reaction to a verdict in the ‘Tiergarten murder’ case.

Berlin, December 16th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — On her 41st birthday, between countless trips to neighboring countries, Annalena Baerbock showed rigor. By declaring two Russian diplomats at the embassy in Berlin personas non grata, the new Foreign Minister expelled them from the Federal Republic of Germany. They have seven days to pack their bags and leave. It is the second time Germany expels Russian diplomats because of the Tiergarten murder case.

‘State Terrorism’

It happened on August 23rd, 2019. Vadim Krasikov, a 56-year-old Russian citizen who is believed to be part of the intelligence agency FSB, shot the ethnic Chechen Georgian national Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former military commander, in Berlin’s Tiergarten park in broad daylight. Back then, the German government already suspected the murder took place by order of the Russian state. Two Russian diplomats were expelled two years ago. Russia rejected the allegations and reacted by expelling two German diplomats from Russia.

Now, the verdict is in. The Berlin Supreme Court handed down a life sentence against Krasikov. In June of 2019, agencies that belonged to the central government of the Russian Federation had taken the decision to liquidate Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, the judge in charge of the case, Olaf Arnoldi, stated. He accused Moscow of “state terrorism”. Russia had wanted “to set an example”.

‘Serious Violation’

After the verdict, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin summoned Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Netchadzev. According to Minister Annalena Baerbock, he was told two of diplomats were now undesirable aliens, which means they are being expelled. “The state-sponsored murder is a serious violation of the German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany”, Baerbock said.

She added she had spoken to her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov on the phone, before the verdict had been announced. She had told him she wanted “an open, sincere exchange with Russia” on the basis of international law and mutual respect. The Federal Republic of Germany would do everything to ensure “safety in our country and respect for our legal order.”

‘Unfriendly Act’

Ambassador Netchadzev reacted by accusing Germany of an “unfriendly act” which would trigger an answer. He said the moment in time was no coincidence. Someone had wanted to make sure the dialog between Russia and the new German government would be overshadowed by the case. The verdict was “politically motivated and not objective”, Netchadzev stated. Moscow will likely expel German diplomats as a reaction to the expulsion of its own diplomats. Russia’s approach, victim blaming, was expected in Berlin. It is not the first time.