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US welcomes Slovakia’s decision to expel Russian diplomats

Morgan Ortagus (U.S. Department of State/WikiCommons)

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

The U.S. State Department has welcomed Slovakia’s decision to expel three Russian diplomats — a move that media in Slovakia have linked to the 2019 killing in Berlin of a former Chechen rebel from Georgia.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus wrote on Twitter on August 11 that the U.S. “applauds the recent actions taken by Slovakia to protect against threats that foreign malign actors pose to its sovereignty. @SlovakiaMFA has sent a clear signal that it will not tolerate Russia’s politically-motivated criminal acts on Slovak soil or in Europe.”

On August 10, Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Tomaga said the three Russian diplomats had violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and must leave Slovakia by the end of the week.

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According to Tomaga, the decision also was a reaction to the misuse of a Schengen visa issued by Slovakia’s consulate in St. Petersburg that led to “a serious crime…on the territory of another NATO and EU member state.”

Russian media quoted Foreign Ministry officials in Moscow as saying that Russia will respond to the expulsions “in a similar way.”

Slovakia’s Dennik N daily reported that a Russian citizen used a Slovak visa to enter Germany in 2019 and later became a suspect in the Berlin killing of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian national of Chechen origin.

German authorities apprehended the suspect and prosecutors have accused Russia of ordering the murder, a charge that Moscow denies.

The investigative website Bellingcat earlier named the suspect as a Russian citizen, Vadim Krasikov, saying he was a contract killer who grew up in Kazakhstan.