Sunday, December 15th, 2019
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer expects Russia to give in quickly in the foreign affair surrounding the so-called zoo murder. "There is reason to hope that our investigations will be supported and that the Russian side will provide reliable information," Seehofer told SPIEGEL.
The interior minister emphasized that there are already first signs that the Russians are giving up the blockade attitude towards German investigators. "Our authorities use their reliable channels to the Russian partners," said Seehofer. Seehofer did not want to give details about the contacts between Berlin and Moscow.
The minister's statements are quite surprising after the tough diplomatic exchange of blows between Berlin and Moscow. The background to the affair is an investigation by the Attorney General, who suspects Russian state authorities of supporting or even orchestrating the brutal killing of a Georgian in April.
Since the investigators in Karlsruhe took over the case in early December, the murder investigation has turned into a highly explosive political affair. If the federal prosecutors can prove that Moscow participated in the targeted killing in the Little Tiergarten in Berlin, it would be a foreign policy scandal that affects not only the already difficult German relations with Russia.
Mutually expelled diplomats
Just in time for the takeover of the case, Berlin started a symbolic punitive measure. Since the Russian side was completely uncooperative during the investigation, the deputy military attaché and a diplomat from the Russian embassy were expelled in early December. The attaché is said to be working for the Russian military secret service GRU, the diplomat for the domestic service FSB.
Moscaurvanced himself. Ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr was appointed to the Moscow Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Thursday. There he was informed that his Vice Military Attaché, a colonel in the Air Force, and one of his diplomats had to leave Russia within seven days. The reason given was anger at the German punitive action, which was unjustified.
So far, the German investigators in Moscow have bitten their teeth. First, the Berlin investigators sent questions about the background of the arrested perpetrator. Nothing happened. Then the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the BND tried it through their contacts. But it didn't help, the Russians were silent. It is now hoped that a visit by a high-ranking German official to Moscow broke the ice two weeks ago and that the Russians would at least cooperate a bit.
Specifically, the investigators are investigating that Russian secret services and other government agencies endowed the later killer with a false identity and helped him to enter Germany. The gunman, who is named Vadim Sokolow according to his passport, was arrested after the bloody deed. So far, he has refused to testify.
There is ample evidence that Russia supported the perpetrator
How Moscow should cooperate in the case is hard to imagine. President Putin had promised help during a conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris earlier this week. Shortly thereafter, however, he raged publicly that the Georgian who had been shot was a terrorist and an enemy of Russia. The legitimacy of the murder in Berlin was fairly somber with Putin.
There is ample evidence that the perpetrator traveled to Berlin with the help of government agencies. The alleged name of the perpetrator can only be found in Russian databases from 2015, his passport was virtually fresh from the press and resembles papers that are issued for GRU agents. His alleged address in St. Petersburg is incorrect and data in his visa application lead to a company that is assigned to the GRU. All together speaks for a fictitious camouflage identity.
In painstaking detail work, it was also reconstructed what the culprit was really called. The investigators found an old Russian mug shot in the Interpol files, which closely resembles the image of the arrested death gunner. After a precise image comparison, the forensic scientists are quite certain that the Vadim Krasikov he was looking for at the time is the man who shot in Berlin.
Suspect in murder case with the same procedure
DER SPIEGEL and its cooperation partner were also able to verify this. A comparison of pictures of the Krasikov wanted at that time with photos of the zoo murderer with the help of a facial recognition software resulted in matches between 82 and 90 percent.
Krasikov was sought in 2014 in connection with a murder in Moscow, which he is said to have committed in Moscow in 2013. The modus operandi of that time is like the zoo murder: the perpetrator approached his victim by bike, shot in the back and head and escaped by bike.
The Russians, however, have so far maintained the legend that the shooter was Vadim Sokolow. As long as you don't get any further at this point, in Berlin, you cannot speak of a cooperation. But the Russians cannot admit that the shooter was given a false identity – it would be a first-class admission of guilt.