MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday promised it would respond to Germany’s expulsion of two Russian diplomats, a move it called unfriendly and unfounded, Russian news agencies reported.
Germany earlier on Wednesday said it was expelling two diplomats at the Russian embassy in Berlin over what it said was Moscow’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation of a murder where German prosecutors suspect Russian or Chechen involvement.
Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who had previously fought alongside anti-Moscow separatists in Chechnya, was shot twice in the head in a central Berlin park in August as he was heading to a mosque.
The Kremlin has denied any Russian government involvement.
Dmitry Novikov, a senior Russian lawmaker, said he thought Moscow would respond in kind to the German expulsions, the Interfax news agency reported.
Berlin’s decision marks an escalation in already heightened tensions between Russia and Germany and other Western countries following the poisoning last year of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter on British soil.
Speaking at a NATO summit in Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she would raise the issue with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at a planned meeting next week.
"We took this decision because we did not see that Russia was supporting us in clearing up this murder,” she said.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the fact that federal prosecutors had taken up the case pointed to the seriousness of the crime and said Berlin may take further action.
"The government is still in discussions as to what possible further consequences there could be,” he said.
Surveillance camera footage showed that the suspect had cycled up close to the victim who managed to push him over. The victim then tried to flee but the killer pursued him and shot him at least twice in the body and head, the prosecutors said.
A suspect was detained soon after the killing and investigators had discovered his real identity. They named him only as Vadim K. or Vadim S. Der Spiegel magazine has reported his passport number links him to Russian security services.
Russia’s foreign ministry responded angrily on Wednesday.
"We view statements from the German side about the expulsion of two employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin as unfounded and unfriendly. We’ll be forced to take a series of reciprocal measures,” Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying.
The spat may hurt bilateral ties.
Germany relies on Russia for more than 40% of gas imports and some 30% of oil imports.