Russian ‘spy’ found dead after falling from window in Berlin embassy

Kirill Zhalo was the son of a high ranking Russian intelligence officer

Oliver Carroll
Moscow Correspondent
Friday 05 November 2021 16:43 GMT
The Russian embassy in Berlin
The Russian embassy in Berlin (AFP via Getty Images)
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A Russian diplomat has been found dead after falling from a third-floor window of Moscow’s embassy in Berlin.

Der Spiegel, which broke the news, identified the victim as Kirill Zhalo, 35, the son of a top Russian intelligence officer. German authorities believe Mr Zhalo was in fact a spy working under the cover of second secretary, the website reported.

He was found lifeless in a pool of blood shortly after 7am on 19 October.

It is unclear if he died before or after the fall. In line with standard protocol, there was no local police investigation or autopsy and the body was taken away to Moscow the next day.

Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website, has corroborated family ties to General Alexei Zhalo, the deputy head of the Second Directorate of Russia’s security agency. Data from leaked car registration databases show the two men shared addresses – first in a family home in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia, and later in Moscow.

The FSB’s infamous Second Directorate has a mandate of protecting “constitutional order”. In practice, this has extended to hardline operations controlling dissidents, opposition politicians and journalists.

Bellingcat allege the Directorate was also responsible for the brazen daytime assassination of former Chechen rebel commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin’s Tiergarten in August 2019.

Writing on Twitter, Christo Grozev, the publication’s main investigator, noted that the younger Zhalo was moved from Vienna to Berlin just two months before that assassination. “That may just be a coincidence,” he said, “But German authorities believe the killer received support on the ground in Berlin.”

German authorities, not impressed by what they described as a “contract killing” in their backyard, later ordered the expulsion of two Russian diplomats. Moscow has denied any involvement in the assassination.

Whatever the truth of the latest incident, suspicions and conspiracy theories about state involvement are bound to linger. “Falling from windows” has become a loaded term in Russia – serving as it does as a frequent explanation for dozens of unexplained deaths of politicians, muckraking journalists and state officials.

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