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. Oct. 19, but declined further questions. The Berlin police asked questions of the public prosecutor, but they did not respond immediately to our request.

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 intelligence service, the FSB. According to Der Spiegel, the cause of death and circumstances are not known.

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. The magazine stated that the investigation was not possible because the man held diplomatic status.

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 the FSB’s counterterrorism Second Service and the head of the FSB’s Directorate for Protection of Constitutional Order.

Bellingcat previously linked the 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 in the killing.

The diplomat who died last month had been posted in Berlin since June 2019, according to Germany’s diplomatic list. According to the Russian Embassy, all details regarding repatriation of the body of the diplomat were quickly settled with German medical and law enforcement authorities.

Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow contributed to this report.

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