An undercover hitman, Putin’s ace up his sleeve to negotiate the release of journalist Evan Gershkovich

An undercover hitman, the ace up his sleeve that Putin would use in exchange for the release of Evan Gershkovich (REUTERS) (SPUTNIK/)

Vladimir Putin looks forward to the day that the Moscow court handling the case of the American journalist Evan Gershkovic dictate your final sentence. Then, it will be the perfect time to resume negotiations for the release of his undercover hitman preferred, prisoner in Germany, as reported The Wall Street Journal.

Vadim Krasikov He is a Russian assassin who worked for the Russian Government under a false identity for years. A former officer of the KGB and of the consequent FSB (Federal Security Service), is responsible for several of the crimes that the Kremlin ordered against traitors abroad.

Since his arrest in 2019, with a life sentence, Russia has been determined to regain its freedom but has not made great progress.

However, after officials from several countries gave the go-ahead for a possible multilateral agreement to exchange Russian detainees in NATO countries for Western citizens detained in Russia, Putin regained hope.

Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March by the Federal Security Service, accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian weapons factory (REUTERS)
Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March by the Federal Security Service, accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian weapons factory (REUTERS) (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/)

Kremlin Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in April that he would consider a prisoner swap with Gershkovich only after the final ruling of the Moscow court is known, which, so far, has only extended the preventive detention of the journalist from the Wall Street Journalaccused of espionage.

In any case, the barter with the West would not be so simple since a German legal opinion from 2022 establishes that the exchange of a convicted murderer is not possibleas is the case with Krasikov.

Joe Biden, for his part, said in July that he would consider a barter but did not provide further details about it.

It will be, then, a series of delicate and unpredictable conversations given the seriousness of the crime.

Who is Vadim Krasikov

Vadim Krasikov is a former officer of the KGB and the subsequent FSB, responsible for several of the brutal crimes that the Kremlin ordered against traitors (Grosby)

Undoubtedly, he is a very valuable man for Putin, to the point that he focuses his efforts on bringing him back to the country.

Perhaps his career in the security services and his assignments abroad will help to understand his role in the dynamics of the Kremlin.

Krasikov, 58, was born in a village in Kenestobe, Kazakhstan. He served in the Soviet Army during the Afghan War and later joined the elite military units of the Ministry of the Interior and the FSB. In this it is believed that he was part of the department Vympelspecialized in clandestine operations abroad.

He was married twice; the second of them with Kateryna Krasikova, a Ukrainian from Kharkiv. His in-laws, including his brother-in-law Aleksandr Vodorez who testified on his behalf, knew that he worked for Moscow’s secret services but knew little about his duties there.

Images of their wedding, in July 2010, showed FSB agents celebrating with the couple on the banks of the Moskva River.

They lived in a luxurious apartment in the Russian capital that, according to his wife, he paid for with his salary from USD 10,000 monthlyto which bonuses for business trips were added, which lasted weeks in some cases.

Krasikov boasted luxury. He wore designer clothes, vacationed in the Mediterranean and drove high-end vehicles like Porsche and BMW, which he changed frequently.

He also showed off his skills with weapons. Once, as her brother-in-law recalled, she boasted that she had met Putin at a training center and noted that he said that he “shot well.”

But being good with weapons was not enough to be efficient; I also needed to be fast and operate with a low profile. It wasn’t a problem either.

For years, the former agent he led a double life: Vadim Krasikov for his friends and family, Vadim Sokolov for the rest of the world.

For years, he led a double life as Vadim Sokolov for the rest of the world (Grosby)

In order to go unnoticed, Russia had issued him a passport with this name while he claimed to have no relationship with the Moscow Government.

His story was very compelling, until one day things didn’t turn out so well.

The end of Krasikov

On August 17, 2019, Sokolov embarked on what would be his last ‘working trip’. He boarded a flight from Moscow to Paris and entered the French capital with a tourist visa that, shortly before, the consulate in Saint Petersburg had issued him.

There he took a tour of the most famous sites of the iconic city and even took selfies next to the Eiffel Tower and other monuments.

Three days later, on August 20, he flew to Warsaw. She once again lived the life of a tourist, staying at the Novotel Warsaw, going on an excursion and taking more photographs.

Hotel staff remembered him as a polite man, with a well-groomed beard and elegant clothing. He even asked a receptionist for a reservation at a beauty salon and gave her a generous tip in return.

On the 22nd of that month, he left – now – for his final destination: Berlin. According to court records, his plans called for her to return as soon as possible to Warsaw, where she had left her mobile phone and her luggage, and where she had the hotel reservation until the 25th. Then, it would be his return to Moscow. .

Upon arriving in Berlin, Krasikov met a group of people who gave him new clothes, a black bicycle, a Glock 26 9mm pistol with silencer and a spare magazineand some papers with the daily routine of Zemlikhan Khangoshvilihis victim.

Khangoshvili was a Chechen insurgent of Georgian nationality, accused by Russia of having been behind a raid by Chechen fighters who took the city of Nazran and killed Russian security officials, in 2004.

In 2016, he fled his country to Germany where, despite the rejection of his asylum request, he remained in the face of persecution and attacks by the Kremlin against him.

That August 23, around 11:30 in the morning, Krasikov stood in front of the entrance to his apartment and waited for him, as he did every day, to go to the nearby mosque and his usual walk through the Tiergarten park.

As he emerged from the 19th-century-style building about 20 minutes later, Krasikov followed closely behind. He was disguised with a long-haired black wig, a baseball cap, Ray-Ban sunglasses, a gray hooded sweatshirt, neon green tights and cycling gloves. He carried the loaded gun with the silencer in his black backpack and an electric motorcycle was waiting for him on the bank of the Spree River, ready for his escape.

Upon entering the park, he pedaled faster until he was next to him. Near the hammocks, she pulled out his gun and shot him in the back. Khangoshvili immediately collapsed to the ground and Krasikov shot him two more times, this time in the head.

His death was undoubtable and witnessed by dozens of children and families who were enjoying a day like any other.

Vadim Krasikov
On August 23, after murdering Zemlikhan Khangoshvili, he was arrested by the German police (Getty Images)

A few seconds later, the former agent fled. He got on his bicycle and pedaled to the river, where He changed his clothes, took off his wig and threw absolutely everything into the water. He shaved part of his beard with an electric shaver.

What could have been the perfect crime was thwarted by the complaint of two passers-by who saw the sequence and called the police. A few minutes later he was arrested and all the objects with his fingerprints were left in the hands of the investigators.

During the interrogations, Krasikov remained in character and claimed to be Sokolov and to be in the city visiting his lover. He had the help of the Russian embassy in Berlin, which supported his false identity.

Prosecutors had the right man in their custody, without knowing who he was in question.

The months passed and in October 2020 the trial began. Thanks to the help of the Ukrainian police and the research platform Bellingcatprosecutors managed to decipher his true identity and, in December 2021, charge him with assassination commissioned by the Russian government, with a life sentence. They considered it an act of state terrorism that sought to send the message that even if dissidents seek refuge outside the country, they will still be found.

He denied his innocence at all times, as well as his links to the Russian security services. For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow maintained that the verdict was politically motivated and that it was a lie created by the West.

“We insist that our citizen is innocent,” they then declared about Sokolov.

In any case, his position was overshadowed when he was accused of the crime of a Russian businessman, in similar circumstances. It was about Albert Nazranova business owner in the Caucasian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, who died after being shot in the back and head.

Surveillance footage showed him walking and then running from a bicycle that was approaching him.

A key clue to linking Krasikov to this second crime was a photo from his vacation in which a tattoo skull with wings – emblem of the Ministry of the Interior’s special forces – on the left shoulder, along with a snake coiled on his forearm.

Now, the hitman spends his days in a high-security center in Bavaria – far from dangerous inmates who could kill him – and enjoys the comforts that German Justice gives to prisoners, while he waits for good news from the Kremlin.

After all, nothing compares to freedom.