Germany confirms Russian diplomat found dead in Berlin last month; Russia calls it ‘tragic accident’
BERLIN - German authorities on Friday confirmed that a Russian diplomat was found dead in Berlin last month, an incident Russia described as a “tragic accident” while criticizing media reports that said the man was a spy and his death could be suspicious.
The German Foreign Ministry said the diplomat was found dead at 7.20 a.m. on Oct. 19, but declined further questions. Berlin police referred questions to the public prosecutor’s office, which did not immediately respond a request for comment.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reported, without detailing its sources, that German security authorities believed the 35-year-old diplomat was an agent of Russia’s domestic secret service the FSB. The cause and the circumstances of the death are unknown, according to the magazine, which was first to report incident.
It said the man had appeared to have fallen from an upper floor of the embassy complex on Behrenstrasse in the Mitte district of Berlin. Because he had diplomatic status, the public prosecutor was unable to investigate, it reported.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin described the incident as a “tragic accident.”
“We consider speculations which have appeared in a number of Western media in the light of this tragic event to be absolutely incorrect,” it said in a statement.
According to the Netherlands-based investigative outlet Bellingcat, the diplomat was the son of Gen. Alexey Zhalo, deputy director of FSB’s counterterrorism Second Service and the head of the FSB’s Directorate for Protection of Constitutional Order.
Bellingcat has previously linked FSB’s Second Service to the assassination of Georgian asylum seeker and former Chechen rebel commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s central Tiergarten park in August 2019. A Russian citizen is currently on trial for the murder.
The diplomat who died last month had been posted in Berlin since June 2019, according to Germany’s diplomatic list. The Russian Embassy said that all procedures related to repatriating the diplomat’s body back to his homeland were “promptly settled” with responsible German law-enforcement and medical authorities.
The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow contributed to this report.