At the end of August was shot in Berlin, a Chechen from Georgia. The alleged perpetrator should be Russian citizen. It was a political assassination? Estimates from the Russia expert Mark Galeotti.
Forensics in the Park: Berlin police officials in Moabit
Deutsche Welle: Mr Galeotti, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili has fought in the second Chechen war against Russia. The murder is on him in a Berlin Park, with the attempted poisoning of the Russian Ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK similar?
Mark Galeotti: it’s hard to say. It was probably an assassination attempt, which was choreographed by national elements in Russia. We do not know whether the first pulse emanated from Moscow or Kadyrov, the Chechen leader. Kadyrov is a vindictive Person and is associated with the assassination of Chechen dissidents in Europe and beyond. Bellingcat (an international investigative research network, author’s note. d. Red.) examines how the alleged killer Vadim Sokolov came to his passport and where he was deployed. He is not a Chechen, shows that this was probably on Moscow’s orders.
What could be the motive for the murder of Khangoshvili?
It is clear that he is on this long list of people that would see the Russian state frankly rather be dead than alive. Why him and why now? There is evidence to suggest that he was involved in Attempts to create in Chechnya problems, and ever was, Chechen dissidents in the whole of Europe together.
What do you know about the alleged murderer?
It is believed that he could be an employee of the Russian secret service, or at least in the case of a contract could be. He could work for the Federal security service, the FSB, for its relations to the Chechens, the notorious. But he is probably not a traditional intelligence officer, as he reportedly has several tattoos. He could be a Gangster who was hired by the FSB.
Mark Galeotti is a historian and expert on Russian intelligence services
According to media a crown and a Panther are tattooed on the left Hand of the alleged offender, on his right Hand, a snake. What is the meaning of this?
The times when tattoos in the Russian criminal subculture had a fixed meaning, are over. In General, a crown is but a Symbol for a relatively high-ranking Gangster leader, but not for a sponsor. Panther Tattoos are typical for prisoners from the prison camps in Siberia or in the Russian far East. The snake can have many meanings. But there are Tattoos that are under Criminal and not in the army are common.
Why should be a Criminal hired to kill someone?
The world of information is changing the world of espionage. It is becoming more and more difficult to have an Undercover spy who operates under multiple identities, and in several countries. Video surveillance, biometric passports and so on complicate everything.
The Russians increasingly use of people who could be described as “assassins for one-time use”. We have seen that in the case of the Skripals. The suspected assassins were not professional agents, but members of the Russian special unit spetsnaz. The Russians know that the identities are revealed, so you find people who can do a Job, and then return to their regular work.
The alleged perpetrators, which should have poisoned the Ex-Russian agent Sergei Skripal, travelled ahead of the attempt by Western Europe. Vadim Sokolov had been seen in front of the Berlin assassination of apparently nowhere…
The alleged Skripal-bombers may have been involved in intelligence operations, but you may have built up references in order to obtain a British visa.
Unusual is how quickly and easily Sokolov got a visa from the French Consulate. He had very weak records: He gave an address that was there, and to say a company, to which company it was. We know how difficult it is for ordinary Russians to get a visa.
The alleged killer wanted to leave the country a day after the murder, not immediately as the Skripal-assassin. Why?
It is a lot of speculation, but most likely those who planned the Operation, feared that the authorities would close the airports immediately. By giving him a day, he could fall more easily through the sieve. Russian secret services are usually quite good at what they do. But even they make mistakes, partly because they are so active and sometimes not just from their A-Team, but also from their B or C Team must select.
If the investigation shows that it was a political assassination, should Germany and other countries to impose new sanctions against Russia?
Then there must be some kind of answer. NATO has a military assistance obligation, but in respect of such non-military attacks, which include everything from Hacking to terrorist attacks, it is unclear how far this commitment goes. Not only Germany will have to take a stand, even his allies will have to take a Position.
Mark Galeotti is a British historian and expert on Russian intelligence services. He is an honorary Professor at University College London.
The conversation Roman Goncharenko led.