The German government has expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after prosecutors said Moscow could be behind the killing of a former Chechen rebel commander in a Berlin park.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian national, was shot twice in the head at close range in Kleiner Tiergarten park on August 23, allegedly by a Russian man who was arrested shortly afterwards.
The case has been compared with the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Britain last year with a Soviet-era nerve agent, widely blamed on Russian intelligence.
The attempted murder plunged relations between Britain and Russia into a deep freeze, leading to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.
After Germany’s move on Wednesday, a Russian foreign ministry representative pledged “retaliatory measures”.
“A politicised approach to investigation issues is unacceptable,” said the representative, adding that Germany’s statements were “groundless and hostile”.
The suspect in the Berlin killing was said to be riding a bicycle and was seen by witnesses afterwards throwing the bike and a stone-laden bag with a gun into a river.
He has until now been named by police only as Vadim S but evidence revealed by German prosecutors on Wednesday indicated a possible fake identity.
“The foreign ministry has today declared two employees of the Russian embassy in Berlin as personae non gratae with immediate effect,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Despite repeated high-ranking and persistent demands, Russian authorities have not cooperated sufficiently in the investigation into the murder.”
Federal prosecutors in charge of intelligence cases earlier on Wednesday said they had taken over the investigation.
“There is sufficient factual evidence to suggest that the killing… was carried out either on behalf of state agencies of the Russian Federation or those of the Autonomous Chechen Republic,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.