Earlier we reported that the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin was organized by the FSB Spetsnaz Center. The killer, Vadim Krasikov, also guilty of murdering at least two businessmen in Russia, was trained at the FSB's Spetsnaz Center and received a cover passport with a different name from the special services. The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel identified Krasikov's accomplices, who are connected with other murders organized by the FSB. It is known that a group of FSB hitmen had no problem getting Schengen visas with fake names and killed at least two people in Turkey. Two members of the group were arrested by Turkish authorities in 2016, but then they were exchanged for Crimean Tatars.
Co-written by Bellingcat and Der Spiegel
The FSB's Magnificent Seven
On July 29, 2019, a man with a travel passport issued in the name of Roman Davydov, birth date October 9, 1981, requested through a travel agent a one-year Schengen visa from the Slovakian consulate in St. Petersburg. He wrote in the visa application that he lived at Building 2, 32 Bogatyrsky Prospect in St. Petersburg and worked as a structural design engineer. None of that was true. A person with those name and date of birth did not exist, and house number 32 did not have a building 2.
“Roman Davydov” was not born in 1981, but rather just 10 days before the visit to the consulate – a travel passport in that name was issued on July 18, 2019 in Bryansk. It appeared in the tax database a week later, on July 23, 2019. The company Rust CJSC, which issued the certificate of employment to Davydov, had been in the process of “restructuring” for several years and had not been paying taxes for its employees since 2016, with one person (not Davydov) being formally employed by the company in 2019. Strangely, Slovakia issued the non-existent person a multiple Schengen visa ... on the same day.
“Roman Davydov” was not the only non-existent person who applied for a Schengen visa that day. The second such person was “Vadim Sokolov,” who requested a visa at the French consulate in Moscow. “Sokolov” also came into existence a few days earlier, when a passport was issued in his name in Bryansk with a number that differs only by the last two digits from the number of “Davydov”'s passport. They both appeared in the tax database at the same time, on July 23, 2019. And both were listed as “structural design engineers” at Rust CJSC (company director Boris Ershov was unable to explain to The Insider how his signature appeared on Sokolov's and Davydov's documents). “Sokolov” also obtained a multiple-entry Schengen visa without any problems. Three weeks later, “Sokolov,” aka Vadim Krasikov, shot Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin. “Roman Davydov” safely returned to Russia.
What was “Davydov” doing in Europe and what was his role in the murder of Khangoshvili is not yet completely clear. We only know that on August 3 he left for Poland by car from Belarus, and 4 days later he returned in the same manner. The murder took place on August 23, and Krasikov arrived in Berlin from Poland (and, most likely, received his gun there - a modified Glock with special subsonic ammunition). Krasikov stayed only one day in Berlin, but he already had at his disposal a bicycle and an electric scooter (a model which is not on sale in Germany), he knew where and when the victim would appear, - in short, there is no doubt Krasikov had help and “Davydov” was one of those helpers.
The fact that “Davydov” had been helping Krasikov is evident from the information on the movements of the car, an Infiniti Q50, he had rented in Moscow. According to the data from traffic cameras, which Bellingcat has at its disposal, it is possible to trace “Davydov”'s movements: in July 2019 he was constantly on Osenniy Boulevard, where Krasikov lived, and also visited Balashikha, where at the time Krasikov was undergoing combat training at the FSB Spetsnaz Center.
Although the role of “Davydov” in the Berlin murder is not entirely clear, the fact of his involvement is very important as it links Krasikov to other FSB killings abroad.
On November 1, 2015, Abdulvahid Edilgeriev left his apartment in Istanbul and got into his car, with his young niece sitting next to him. He barely had time to start the engine when a white car pulled up behind them, blocking them. Abdulvahid managed to push his niece to the floor before a shot rang out. The killers missed. He jumped out of the car and ran, but the killers caught up to him and shot him in the back. He was found with five gunshot wounds and his throat slit.
Edilgeriev has little in common with Khangoshvili, except for his involvement in the Chechen war, but few Chechen men did not take part in it. Their biographies have one more detail in common: they both lived in Ukraine, and Edilgeriyev fought in the war on the Ukrainian side (according to some unconfirmed reports, Khangoshvili too fought in it). Otherwise, their biographies were different: Edilgeriyev was a radical Islamist and a key figure in the Islamist terrorist organization, the Caucasus Emirate; he had even fought in Syria with Al-Qaida terrorists.
Turkish police later reported that at least three Russians were involved in the murder. The white car was rented by a man with a passport issued in the name of Alexander Nasyrov, who arrived in Istanbul as early as September 11. Nasyrov also rented another car - both were found in the city of Yalova in northwestern Turkey. “Nasyrov” himself returned to Russia before the murder, on September 16. Nasyrov's two accomplices, “Smirnov” and “Anisimov,” arrived in Turkey at about the same time as Nasyrov (September 11-13). The police still have video footage from surveillance cameras showing their faces. The cameras also revealed that all the three men had met one another near their hotels.
The police were unable to detain them right away, but “Smirnov” and “Anisimov” were “smart enough” to return to Turkey six months later, on April 6, 2016. They were, of course, immediately apprehended. But they didn't have to stay in prison long - a year later they were exchanged for the arrested members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov. At the same time, the Russian media did not cover the exchange, everything was presented as the Kremlin's gesture of goodwill (which apparently suited Turkey).
The flight database shows that the three Istanbul assassins had similar passport numbers. The same database shows that it was not their first trip to Istanbul together. On the morning of December 10, 2014, all three flew to Istanbul. Later that day, the famous Uzbek imam Mirzagolib Khamidov (Abdullah Bukhari), who was in opposition to the Uzbek authorities, was shot dead.
At the time, the BBC reported that long before the murder, in 2014, a veteran of the Turkish security services contacted the publication and said that he had been contacted by a man who said he worked for the FSB and was assembling a brigade of mercenaries, he had a list of 15 people living in Turkey, whom the FSB intended to kill. A reward of $300,000 was offered for each of them. Khamidov, according to the veteran, was also on that list. Since the Kremlin had no interest in Khamidov, it was assumed that his murder was a part of some barter deal with the Uzbek authorities.
The FSB's Magnificent Seven
We managed to find another four people – in addition to “Smirnov,” “Anisimov” and “Nasyrov” - with similar passport numbers (just one or two last digits were different), who appeared not to have been included in any Russian databases. Six of the seven flew to Prague in July or August 2015. Five of the six overlapped on the same date, July 23. What was supposed to have happened there is unclear, but it seems that someone was very lucky on that day.
One of those people, who also traveled to Prague, “Roman Nikolaev” has the same photo in his passport file as in “Roman Davydov”'s visa application. Thus, we already know two names of Krasikov's accomplice. Whether he himself took part in the Istanbul murders in Istanbul is unclear.
In addition to Roman Davydov-Nikolayev, at least one other member of the “magnificent seven” has links to Krasikov. Judging by Krasikov's phone calls, one of his main contacts on the eve of the murder was “Andrei Mitrakov,” who, according to his passport, was born in 1970.
Curiously, at least two of the group of seven also had Russian passports issued under the same names, and those passports also belong to a special series. They share the same passport series with Vympel FSB Colonel Igor Yegorov (“Igor Semnov”), who earlier had been identified both as the organizer of the attempt on a Chechen in Ukraine and as the “Elbrus” from the Flight MH17 case. It is known that Yegorov frequently traveled to Germany, but whether he had anything to do with the murder of Khangoshvili is not yet clear.