“Vadim Sokolov”, arrested for the murder of the Chechen refugee Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin, is in fact Vadim Nikolaevich Krasikov (born August 10, 1965), who had already been on a wanted list in Russia for a murder committed in a similar way. Not only did we manage to establish the murderer's real name and biography, but we also found new evidence of his ties to the Russian state (including the disappearance of his name from numerous government databases). The German authorities have also finally recognized Krasikov's ties to the Russian authorities: German Attorney General Peter Frank has taken over the investigation.
This is a joint publication of The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel
On the night of January 19, 2013, Albert Nazranov, a businessman from Kabardino-Balkaria, parked his car outside his home in Moscow. When he took out his keys and began walking up to the entrance, a cyclist wearing a cap and carrying a backpack drove up behind him. One glance was enough for Nazranov to understand that the cyclist had come for him. Nazranov, owner of a chain of restaurants and a market in Nalchik, was expecting something like that. He had already been attacked eight months earlier when his car was blown up by assassins.
Nazranov rushed towards him, pushed him off his bicycle and fled. The killer immediately shot him in the back. The businessman collapsed, but jumped up immediately and started running again, and the killer charged after him. A few seconds later it was over - one shot to the torso and four to the head. The murder scene was caught on the security cameras installed at the entrance.
The killer was immediately dubbed in the news as the “bicycle assassin.” A year later, on January 29, 2014, a certain Vadim Krasikov was put on the federal wanted list in connection with the case. On June 26, 2015, he was struck from the list. What happened to Krasikov next is unclear. The next time he was in the spotlight was August 23, 2019, in Berlin, when, jumping from behind the bushes, he shot Zelimkhan Khangoshvili three times (two bullets to the head and one to the shoulder) and then fled the murder scene – again on a bicycle.
Vadim Krasikov was born on August 10, 1965, in the village of Kenestobe in the Turkestan region of Kazakhstan. In the 1980s, his family moved to Buryatia. Krasikov got married there and moved to Irkutsk with his wife and two children. He moved to Moscow in 2019, but it is possible that even before the Moscow murder he had already committed crimes. In any case, it is known that the law enforcement agencies of Karelia were looking for him back in 2007 in connection with one of the criminal cases. Several sources with access to police databases have confirmed that Vadim Krasikov cannot be found in the Interior Ministry's Integrated Data Bank (IDB), although the off-line database contains a search circular letter, No. 2014 125, which lists the date Krasikov was struck from the wanted list (June 26, 2015) and the date the information was added to the IDB (July 15, 2015). This means that someone wiped out Krasikov's data from the database after the fact.
The strange termination of the search for Krasikov and the disappearance of information about him from the databases is only part of the evidence of his ties to the government. For example, despite Germany's request, Russia did not provide any information about Krasikov (though the authorities had a photograph and fingerprints, enough to identify the killer in a matter of minutes).
Previously, we have specified other arguments in favor of the murderer's ties to the government. Like, for example, the fact that Krasikov was able to get a passport for the fictitious identity of “Sokolov” and cross the border – even if he had somehow managed to forge a passport himself, he would not have been able to pass Russian border control using it, because the system would have automatically compared the scanned passport data against the Rospasport system, where Sokolov does not exist. The fact that the German attorney general has taken over the case indicates that Germany no longer considers Khangoshvili's murder a “criminal “sorting out”“ and sees a connection between the killer and the Russian state.
Shortly after Russia put Krasikov on the federal wanted list, it also put him on the Interpol wanted list. It was the photo from the Interpol archives that helped us determine that “Sokolov” was in reality Vadim Krasikov:
Photo from Interpol archives on the left, photo from visa application documents on the right
Krasikov is no longer in the Interpol database, but he can be easily found via an image search in the archives. This is yet another conformation that the lack of Russia's assistance to German authorities was not because of any difficulty in locating the killer, but because of Moscow's unwillingness to cooperate.
More on Krasikov's identification in the next section...