Germany expels two Russian diplomats as Kremlin defends killing of politician

BERLIN – Germany on Wednesday said it had expelled two Russian diplomats, several days after two Russians were convicted of murdering the opposition Russian lawmaker and banker Boris Nemtsov.

The German foreign ministry said Russia had been informed in early May that two Russian diplomats were working for Russian intelligence agencies and their diplomatic status had not been renewed.

“They were given 15 days to leave, which has now expired,” ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said.

Peschke was asked about news reports that the Russians had been working on behalf of the FSB security service.

Peschke said it was of “particular concern” that Moscow had not expelled any German diplomats since the end of 2017, when Russia declared two German diplomats were intelligence agents and expelled them as well.

Peschke said he could not say if Wednesday’s expulsions were in response to the Nemtsov verdict, which cited “extremely serious doubts about the involvement of the Russian authorities” in the killing in February 2015.

The verdict came after Germany, France and the United States failed to get an amnestied version of the events.

It made international headlines after the court compared the crime to the killing of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, which occurred more than 40 years ago and was given prominent media coverage in Germany.

Nemtsov, who was Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian region of Chechnya in 2004, was gunned down just outside the Kremlin walls in 2015. He had been opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Chechnya.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly slammed the conviction and described it as politically motivated. It said the court had ignored the trial record and various mitigating factors.

The trial and verdict were sealed by a court order not to be published in advance. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly made demands for transparency in the trial but the court has not granted any of those requests.

Analysts have dismissed the arguments of the Foreign Ministry, saying that the trial was fair and transparent, as well as serving as a symbol that Russia would no longer tolerate Western meddling in its affairs.

The killing prompted international condemnation.

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