August 30, 2019 / 11:34 AM / 19 days ago

Suspect in Berlin killing had links to Russian state security: Der Spiegel

BERLIN (Reuters) - The suspect detained over the killing last week of a Georgian citizen in Berlin had a passport whose number linked him to Russian security services, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who had previously fought alongside anti-Moscow separatists in the province of Chechnya, was shot twice in the head last Friday as he headed through a central Berlin park to the mosque.

If confirmed, the report could add to problems between the European Union and Moscow, which are already at odds over the apparent murder attempt against a Russian defector in Britain last year.

Spiegel said an investigation conducted jointly with the investigative networks Bellingcat and The Insider had found that nobody with the name of the alleged assassin was to be found in the Russian national passport register.

It added that his passport number was associated with an interior ministry unit that had in the past issued identity documents for agents of the GRU military intelligence service.

Germany’s interior ministry was not immediately available for comment.

German authorities have not so far given any details about the suspect, who Der Spiegel said went by the name Vadim Andreevich Sokolov, beyond describing him as a Russian citizen. A prosecution spokesman last week said they were considering a political motive for the murder.

Der Spiegel added that the receptionist in the Paris hotel, which was given in the suspect’s visa application as his address, said she had never seen him.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt,; Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Angus MacSwan

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