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German Foreign Minister says Russia not cooperating on Berlin murder probe

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

German authorities have made a total of 17 requests for information to Russia in connection with the murder in a Berlin park of a Georgian citizen, but to no avail, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Moscow on August 11.

In August 2019, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen separatist fighter who had fled from Georgia to Germany, was shot dead in Berlin. German prosecutors have filed murder charges against a Russian national in that case and accused the Russian government of ordering the killing.

Maas, speaking at a news conference following talks in Moscow on August 11 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said there would be consequences if a court concurred with prosecutors’ conclusion that the murder had been ordered by a Russian state body.

“It’s up to the court what the verdict will be. That will be the basis for our reaction,” Maas said. If the court reached the same conclusion, he said “one must also expect further reactions.”

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Lavrov, in turn, said Moscow has provided Berlin with all the information it could on the murder.

Lavrov said Berlin should provide evidence to Russia that supports the German prosecutor-general’s claim that Russian state officials ordered the killing.

“Our relevant agencies passed on all they could to their German counterparts in response to the requests that were sent to us,” Lavrov
said.

Maas was in Moscow on August 11 for talks with Lavrov expected to center mainly on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The pipeline, under construction in the Baltic Sea, would double Russia’s direct natural gas exports to Germany while bypassing Ukraine, which stands to lose billions of dollars in gas-transit fees.

The United States has long opposed Nord Stream 2, which has increasingly become a source of friction between Berlin and Washington. The United States argues the project will endanger European security by making Germany overly dependent on Russian gas.

The United States already has imposed sanctions aimed at companies working on the project, saying the pipeline will increase the European Union’s dependence on Russia for natural gas.

German officials have condemned the U.S. sanctions, and some critics argue that behind U.S. opposition to the pipeline project is its own desire to sell its liquefied natural gas to Europe.

“No state has the right to dictate Europe’s energy policy with threats, and that will not succeed,” Maas told reporters in Moscow.

Sanctions among allies are “definitely the wrong way to go,” Maas said after his meeting with Lavrov.

Lavrov told reporters that, despite the challenges, the pipeline would be completed in the near future.