At the start of the Berlin “Tiergartenmord” trial, the defendant remains silent. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office sees Russian state agencies behind the act.
BERLIN taz | Under strong security precautions, a diplomatically highly explosive murder trial began on Wednesday in front of the Berlin Supreme Court. A Russian citizen is accused of having shot and killed a Georgian citizen in a park in the German capital. What makes the case a political issue: The prosecution assumes that Russian state agencies are behind the crime.
It’s a complicated case. Even who actually has to answer before the 2nd criminal senate responsible for state security matters is controversial. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is convinced that they have indicted Vadim Nikolajewitsch Krasikov, born on August 10, 1965 in the Chimketskiy region of Kazakhstan. The defendant denies this. “My name is Vadim Andreevich Sokolov,” he states in a short statement read by his defense. He was born on August 20, 1970 in Irkutsk, Siberia.
It could be “that I sometimes use one name, sometimes the other,” says the presiding judge Olaf Arnoldi. “That shows that I’m not committed.”
What happened on August 23, 2019 in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in Berlin-Moabit is beyond dispute: shortly before 12 noon, a man on a bicycle approached the asylum seeker Selimchan Changoshvili, a Georgian of Chechen descent, from behind. When he reached him, the man shot a silenced 9 mm Glock 26 pistol in the side of Changoshvili’s upper body.
“Use” as a contract killer?
But the first shot only hurts him. The perpetrator shot twice more, now in the head of his victim lying on the ground. The indictment read out by federal prosecutor Ronald Georg states that the two headshots “led to the destruction of vital vital structures and thus to an immediate failure of regulation” – a terribly bureaucratic description of the death of a person.
Shortly after the crime, Krasikov, alias Sokolov, was arrested. The police had been alerted by two youths who had seen him changing clothes in a bush not far from the crime scene and then throwing a bicycle, a wig, clothes and a bag into the Spree. The murder weapon was in the bag.
The identity of the accused is irrelevant to the question of whether he committed the murder he is charged with. However, it is of central importance for the search for the motive and possible backers. In contrast to the supposedly innocent civil engineer Sokolov, Krasikov is on record: The Russian authorities searched for him by international arrest warrant for a murder committed in 2013 that is very similar to the one committed in Berlin.
But in 2015 they deleted the wanted notification without any explanation – possibly because a use was found for it. At least that’s what the Federal Prosecutor’s Office assumes.
The Berlin Supreme Court borders on the Kleiner Tiergarten, so it is only a few hundred meters from the crime scene. In the act it was “according to our knowledge to a contract murder of state Russian authorities”, said Federal Prosecutor Georg.
The defendant carried out the killing “either in order to receive an unknown financial reward” or because he shared the motive of his client to liquidate a political opponent with Changoshvili in order to retaliate for his role in the second Chechnya war and to practice its participation in further armed conflicts with the Russian Federation ”.
The reading of the indictment in the high-security room 700 was followed by Krasikov alias Sokolov without any visible emotion. He was silent about the allegations. His client will currently “not get involved”, said Robert Unger, one of the three defense lawyers. The process is initially set to last 25 days.