Russian charged in brazen Berlin killing of Georgian man

Police officers escort a s suspect after his arrival at the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Almost half a year after the murder of a Georgian in Berlin, the Federal Prosecutor General wants to obtain his own arrest warrant against the suspect. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP) ((c) Copyright 2020, dpa ( Alle Rechte vorbehalten)

A Russian man was charged by federal prosecutors Tuesday with the brazen killing of a Georgian man on the streets of Berlin last year, in a case that has already prompted political fallout between Berlin and Moscow.

Vadim K., who used the alias Vadim S., faces charges of murder and weapons violations, said prosecutors’ spokesman Markus Schmitt. The suspect’s last name wasn’t given in line with privacy laws, but it has been widely reported as Vadim Sokolov.

He’s accused of killing Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, also known as Tornike K., gunning down the ethnically Chechen Georgian citizen in a Berlin park and then ditching his bicycle, weapon and a wig in the Spree river before he was captured by police near the scene.

Originally charged by Berlin authorities, federal prosecutors took over the case in December, saying the evidence suggested the slaying was ordered either by Moscow or authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

The suspect was brought before a judge Tuesday who approved his arrest on the federal charges, Schmitt said.

The case has already lead to tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats from Berlin and Moscow.

It comes at a delicate time as Germany pursues a hard line on sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, while at the same time it is working on a joint pipeline project to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Germany also needs Russia’s help to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran, which has been unraveling since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of it in 2018.