More than a week has passed since that day when a Georgian national Zelimkhan Khangoshvili (aka Tornike Kavtarashvili) was killed in the Tiergarten Park in Berlin. Many probably drew attention to the fact that, despite a range of media reports about the murder of a Georgian citizen in the very heart of Berlin and the involvement of Russian special services, I didn't say a single word about the incident. And there are reasons for that.
The thing is that throughout this time, I've been watching the progress of information spins and figures emerging in the context of this story, in order to fully see the essence of things: was this a trivial gang altercation, or a premeditated murder organized by Russian intelligence, or even something more .
It would seem that nothing else is needed if we see some evidence of Russian intelligence being involved. Well, it's not that simple, apparently. I'll get down to it a little further. But first things first.
To begin with, a couple of words about Zelimkhan Khangoshvili (Tornik Kavtarashvili), who became the target of the Russian special services, since in the past he was the commander of Chechen rebels, so there had already been several attempts to eliminate the man.
Of course, Russia is not the first time using special services to eliminate someone on foreign soil. However, in most cases, these are crooked, unprofessional attempts leaving bunches of traces: it's either the polonium-contaminated floor in London, then Novichok traces throughout Salisbury... And it's this particular feature, which is the operation's ridiculous fails, that attracted my attention in the first place.
The next interesting point was that in the immediate aftermath of the murder, independent media investigators entered the arena. And we saw some familiar names there, too. In this case, I mean the joint work of Germany's Der Spiegel, Dutch Bellingcat, and Russia's The Insider. Moreover, the latter almost always take part in such investigations, giving out tonnes of turnkey information pieces about those involved in crimes.
And so it happened this time, too. Indeed, it was thanks to the efforts of these investigative groups that it became aware that the killer came to Germany through France, according to the freshly issued passport in the name of Vadim Andreyevich Sokolov, and was directly related to the GRU, although, apparently, he himself was a representative of the criminal world (tattoos on his body imply his high-ranking gang status). A kind of a freelance hitman for GRU, you know? And, of course, the very first publications on the issue raised a wave of criticism targeting GRU incompetence.
But, I also noted the fact that while many media outlets were electrifying the narrative claiming that the Berlin murder had been yet another GRU disastrous operation, German officials remained silent as fish. I think it’s not worth reminding of the scandal caused by the attempt to poison ex-spy Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. But here, after a Georgian citizen was killed in a park a few steps from Angela Merkel’s residence, it's just total silence. And this did surprise me a lot. This silence has a foul stench, to put it mildly.
Laying out the puzzle, we get the following picture.
The GRU organizes the assassination of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Germany and, instead of deploying their own operative, they send a upper rank representative of the criminal world with a fake passport. Russian special services are known for their extremely close interaction with gangsters, while the failures of Chepiga and Mishkin in Salisbury clearly forces them to hire freelancers.
And everything seemed to be organized "perfectly" this time, but the GRU freelancer, one way or another, must cross the border, which is under the FSB control. This is where the FSB received a request to let "Sokolov" pass, perhaps not even being aware of the purpose of his mission, but the fact that a person was allowed across the border with fake documents indicates the importance of his task. And it is precisely this information that the FSB leaked to their European colleagues.
And I was not at all surprised how fast The Insider completed their investigation (I repeatedly wrote that this outlet is affiliated with thee FSB) on Sokolov and released another batch of material incriminating GRU. And the silence on this murder on the part of Berlin only confirms that the German law enforcers received a tip on Sokolov from the Russian FSB and, as a sign of gratitude, so to speak, they're not raising the issue in the political arena.
So, I waited for all parts of the puzzle to emerge before presenting them to your attention. But, nevertheless, against the background of this seemingly clear picture, a number of questions arise that are still haunting me.
The fact that the FSB, in competition with the GRU, once again leaked dirt on their rivals is understandable, but why did the GRU, after so many high-profile failures, go for such a risky and unprepared mission? Was it really vital and urgent for them to eliminate Khangoshvili? After all, using a freelance hitman can't ensure not getting your hands dirty, especially when the FSB is always on to you. Or maybe…
Or maybe the reality is that it wasn't a GRU operation at all, but one carried out by the FSB, as its target was not Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, but the very GRU. The version has the right to life where the FSB hires a hitman, sends him on a mission and immediately leaks info to Germany via its channels, and after the arrest, through the affiliated outlet (The Insider) organizes a compromising spin against the GRU. Indeed, driven by their will to win a spot in the sun, pushing GRU off the sunbed, all means are good for the FSB.
In any case, this story will further develop, but it has already revealed its main outline to the world.