Two Russian diplomats have been named personae non gratae by the German government after a Berlin court found that Russia ordered the 2019 murder of a Georgian national in the German capital, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday.
The move was communicated to Russian Ambassador Sergey Nechaev during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, Baerbock said.
The killing took place on 23 August 2019, in the city's Kleiner Tiergarten park. Prosecutors say it was an act of retaliation by Moscow for the Georgian's participation in the second Chechen war and his "enmity towards the Russian state."
Russian involvement in the murder was a "serious violation of German law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany," Baerbock said.
"The federal government will do everything that is necessary to ensure security in our country and respect for our legal system."
A 56-year-old Russian national was earlier sentenced to life in prison for the killing.
The court heard that the assassination had been carried out on behalf of Russian state authorities.
Victim of Chechen descent
The man who was killed was a 40-year-old Georgian of Chechen origin who had been living in Germany as an asylum seeker since the end of 2016 and had been classified as a Chechen terrorist by Russian authorities.
The court heard that the man convicted of the killing was an officer from the Russian domestic intelligence service, the FSB, who had travelled to Berlin using a fake identity in order to carry out the contract killing.
The defence had argued that the case was based on "highly questionable evidence."
At the beginning of the trial, the accused gave his name through his lawyers - reported as Vadim S under German privacy laws - that he was 50 years old and a civil engineer. He denied having any connections to the Russian state.
The Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergey Nechaev, called the verdict "an obviously unfriendly act that will not go unanswered."
"Nor will the timing of the pronouncement of judgement be chosen by chance. Obviously someone has an interest in the dialogue between Russia and the new federal government being overshadowed by this from the start."
Russia: verdict 'politically motivated'
Nechaev continued: "We consider this verdict to be unobjective, politically motivated and seriously damaging to the already difficult German-Russian relationship." The ambassador described the accusation that the Russian Federation was involved in the crime as "absurd."
Among other things, he criticized the fact that research by the internet platforms Bellingcat and Insider and "other unfounded speculations" had been admitted as evidence and doubted a witness statement.
Russia has always denied the involvement of state agencies. However, in 2019 President Vladimir Putin described the Georgian who was killed as a "bandit, a murderer" whose extradition Moscow had repeatedly demanded from the German authorities without success.
"This person was wanted in our country, a very brutal and bloodthirsty person. In just one action in which he was involved, 98 people were killed by him. And he was one of the organizers of the explosions in the Moscow Metro," Putin told a press conference in December 2019.
The Georgian had been fighting alongside separatists in the Caucasus, Putin said.
German prosecutors said that Putin's remarks indicated that the man was considered a terrorist "in the highest government circles."