A Russian diplomat who fell to his death last month at the Russian embassy in Berlin was an undercover intelligence officer, according to two European counterintelligence officers contacted by VICE World News.
The diplomat, described by Russia as the second secretary at the embassy, was found dead by police apparently from a fall at about 7.20AM on the 19th of October, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, in what Russian authorities said was a tragic accident,
But two European counterintelligence officers from NATO countries – both declined to be identified for security and political reasons – said the 35-year-old man was well known to intelligence services as a senior intelligence officer from the Russian FSB based in Berlin, considered perhaps the most important intelligence posting in Europe.
“We knew this guy, there had been talk of having him kicked out after the Khangoshvili murder but for some reason the Germans refused,” said one central European intelligence official with a long history of tracking Russian agents in the West.
A Georgian of Chechen descent who had been a rebel commander in the Chechen revolt against Moscow, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was murdered in broad daylight in August 2019 in a Berlin park by a man identified as a Russian intelligence officer by open source investigators for Bellingcat.
The man found dead in October had arrived at the Berlin embassy just two months before Khangoshvili’s killing, according to a follow-up investigation by Bellingcat using a database of Russian government workers.
“He was roughly the number two [FSB] guy at the Berlin embassy, which is a hugely important posting for the Russians, as this is where all their political and disinformation operations in the EU are managed,” said a Northern European intelligence officer.
The officer said that there’s no evidence of foul play in the diplomat’s death, which Berlin police were prohibited from properly investigating the scene or the dead body because it took place on Russian soil, aka the embassy grounds. But it would be suspicious because of the man’s job and rank and because, “The Russians have a long history of mysteriously falling out of windows,” said the official.
There is no direct link between the dead diplomat and Vadim Krasikov, the Russian man arrested for shooting Khangoshvili in the head and trying to escape by rented scooter, said both intelligence sources, other than both being employed by the FSB, Russia’s main security agency and successor to the KGB.
The lack of a direct link might be why Germany declined to kick him out in the aftermath of the Khangoshvili killing, said the central European official. But the researchers at Bellingcat found that the dead man appears to be the son of an extremely high ranking official who managed FSB facilities directly linked to Krasikov’s movements in the months leading up to the Berlin assassination.
“I can’t comment on the Bellingcat report except to say that they’ve done excellent work in the past digging through public records for links between Russians and the intelligence services,” said the central European official.
According to Bellingcat, the dead diplomat’s father is the deputy director of the FSB’s Second Service, which has been linked to both the Berlin assassination as well as team of FSB agents that trailed Russian dissident politician Alexey Navalny prior to his near fatal poisoning in August last year by a deadly nerve agent manufactured by the Russian government that was also used to target a Russian defector and his daughter in Salisbury in the UK in 2018.