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Bicycle Assassin II. Berlin assassin Krasikov served in FSB Vympel spetsnaz

Vadim Krasikov, also known as Vadim Sokolov, arrested in Germany for the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, served in Vympel FSB special force and along with two other Vympel officers took part in at least one other contract killing in addition to shooting a businessman in Moscow which we reported in the previous section of our investigation. Most likely the Berlin murder was a revenge for Khangoshvili's participation in the Georgian war. This is not the first time that the Russian security services have organized extrajudicial executions of Georgian war participants with the hands of criminals.

This is a joint publication of The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel.

  • The first murder. Solved and closed

  • Killers in government service

  • Revenge for Georgia with no statute of limitations


The first murder. Solved and closed

At 11 p.m. on April 4, 2007 in a small Karelian town of Kostomuksha, Alexander Kozlov after work paid a visit to his brother Yuri, a 44-year-old businessman and city council member. He did not find Yuri at his dacha and neither did he find his car, but there were bloodstains and traces of strangers on the spot where it was usually parked. Yuri's phone did not answer. Alexander immediately went to the police. The next day Yury's car was found near the train station with signs of a struggle and blood stains. A witness who lived nearby claimed he heard several gunshots. Further searches were unsuccessful, and it was not until July 21 that mushroom hunters found a body in the woods 15 km from the city toward the Finnish border. Yuri Kozlov's relatives were able to identify him. The motives for the murder were probably business-related, but the investigation was unable to confirm it officially. But on April 19, even before the remains were found, the investigators got on the killer's trail. That day they asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs for information on Vadim Nikolaevich Krasikov.

A form from Krasikov's passport file, which shows that his data was requested on April 19, 2007 in connection with criminal case #18200712003
A form from Krasikov's passport file, which shows that his data was requested on April 19, 2007 in connection with criminal case #18200712003

It is noteworthy that the information on the criminal case has now been removed from the IDB-R (regional level integrated data bank), we only know that the case was opened under Article 105 of the Criminal Code (murder). On November 20, 2014, two suspects were detained in the case. Here's what the brother of the murdered man, Alexander Kozlov, says about it:

“Of the three suspects, two were arrested in 2014 - Oleg Vladimirovich Ivanov (born July 23, 1976, Pskov region) and Vladimir Viktorovich Fomenko (born June 23, 1976, Voronezh region). Krasikov was not found and was put on the wanted list.
On November 23, 2014, Ivanov and Fomenko stood trial in Petrozavodsk, I attended the hearings, but the defendants were released due to insufficient evidence. In 2015, I was told that the case had been taken over by the Directorate for Investigation of Especially Important Cases of the Main Investigation Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia, headed by Igor Viktorovich Krasnov, and then the case was suspended. I hope, however, that the case will be reopened under newly discovered circumstances.
At the trial, the defendants admitted they came to Kostomuksha from Moscow, stayed at the hotel for a while and then left, but did not admit they took part in the murder. Nor have the motives for the crime been officially established, but I think that it was connected with my brother's business activities.
There wasn't much talk about Krasikov in court, because he hadn't been detained. And the other two both served in the FSB Vympel spetsnaz. I think that Krasikov was also their colleague. Ivanov and Fomenko had received numerous awards - for courage, for valor, and so on. Vympel veterans interceded for them in court and were willing to bail them out.
For example, “Fomenko is a distinguished defender of the Fatherland, he has been decorated with many state awards, including the Order of Courage, the Medal for Merit to the Fatherland with swords, the Medal for Courage, the Suvorov Medal, the insignia “For Bravery”, the anniversary insignia “30th Anniversary of Vympel Group”, and was also awarded a personal weapon - a Glock 100 pistol - by the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
Why were they arrested only in 2014? My version: because they retired and became simply veterans.
I am interested in the question of why Krasikov was taken off the wanted list. Now, in connection with his arrest in Berlin, I want to send a request to the Investigative Committee.”

The materials of the trial, which Alexander Kozlov attended, should have been posted on the website of the Petrozavodsk City Court. But neither by the case number, nor the names of the defendants could be found there. The most interesting coincidence: on June 26, 2015, Krasikov was officially removed from the federal wanted list and from the Interpol database, and a little over two months later, in September, he received a national passport in the name of Vadim Sokolov. The reply from the Investigative Committee, which was forwarded to Alexander Kozlov, said that the murder in Kostomuksha was part of a criminal case involving a murder committed by Krasikov in Moscow (see The Insider's report), and it was in the course of the investigation of the Moscow case that Ivanov and Fomenko were arrested. It suggests that Krasikov was, after all, detained in 2014 during the investigation of the Moscow murder case and probably began testifying about his other crimes (we know about Kostomuksha, but the total number of crimes he had been involved in is unknown). One way or another, he was facing life imprisonment for the two murders and was highly motivated to cooperate with the authorities.

The fact that Krasikov served in the Vympel, along with two other accomplices in the Kostomyksha murder, is indirectly confirmed by the fact that the few flights he had made included trips to Kyrgyzstan, where Ivanov and Fomenko received their awards.

Killers in government service

Krasikov's case is not unique. We know of at least one other example where the intelligence services recruited killers in the same way, using law enforcement officers caught in the act of committing a crime. In April 2019, a military intelligence officer's car was blown up. The officer was lucky - the bomb exploded in the killer's hands as he tried to set it. Both of the killer's arms were blown off, but he survived. The bombing was caught on video camera (the fate of the dog the killer was walking as a cover is unknown):

The unsuccessful murderer came to Ukraine with documents in the name of Alexei Lomako, his passport said he was born in 1983 in Kyrgyzstan.

Bellingcat found out that no such person existed, and in reality the murderer's name was Alexey Komarichev. He was a Russian citizen born in 1978 (by coincidence Krasikov's fake identity was also 5 years older).

“Kyrgyz” Lomako (left), Russian Komarichev (right)
“Kyrgyz” Lomako (left), Russian Komarichev (right)

Komarichev started his career as an FSKN officer, but was caught taking a bribe. The court ruling was unusual - in addition to a prison term, he was ordered to pay a fine of 48 million rubles, quite a significant motivation for cooperating with the authorities.

In Komarichev's phone, the investigators found information about another “Kyrgyz,” who was soon found to still be in Ukraine. They used face recognition to establish his real name: Timur Dzortov, a former spetsnaz officer from Dagestan who had worked as a bodyguard for Yevkurov and former deputy head of the Ingush administration Timur Dzortov (The Insider had already published a video of his confession).

That's how Ruslan Dzortov, a Dagestani, turned into Ruslan Kirik, a Kyrgyz
That's how Ruslan Dzortov, a Dagestani, turned into Ruslan Kirik, a Kyrgyz

According to Dzortov's testimony, he, like Komarichev, was recruited in 2017 by the GRU, which held several training sessions with them on weapons handling, sabotage, and explosives manufacturing. The trainings took place in Moscow, Rostov and Donetsk. The objective of both was to eliminate military counterintelligence officers. Before they attempted to plant explosives under the car, other methods of attack were planned - with a knife in the street (to make it look like an episode of street crime) and murder with a gun. The GRU abandoned that plan when it became clear that it would not be easy to get within striking distance of the target. The choice was to use explosives under the car. Curiously, information about Dzortov and Komarichev was also removed from Russian databases, as happened with Krasikov.

Revenge for Georgia with no statute of limitations

In a recent investigation, The New York Times described several other cases of murders committed by Russian security services with the hands of criminals. In 2015, Russian citizen Oleg Smorodinov, with a criminal record and experience of fighting in Donbass, was recruited by the Russian security services when he tried to join the Wagner PMC and travel to Syria. Smorodinov did not go to Syria, instead he was sent to the Ukrainian city of Rivne, where he tracked down and killed an employee of the State Penitentiary Service. The hitman successfully left the country and returned to Russia to take his reward and his next assignment, and all might have ended well for him had he not decided to pay a surprise visit to his girlfriend in Ukraine to wish her a happy birthday. Apparently, he told her about the murder himself - one way or another, she alerted the police. When Smorodinov was arrested, a list of six people was found on him together with instructions to decrypt messages he had been receiving from Moscow. At first glance, all the six men on the list looked like random people. And yet they had one thing in common - they had been consultants or volunteers in the Georgian army during the 2008 war. As in the case of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, even years later the Russian authorities continued to take revenge on citizens who in one way or another took part in the war on Georgia's side. In addition to the absence of a statute of limitations, this vendetta has another peculiarity: extrajudicial executions are carried out by criminals.

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