DRussian President Vladimir Putin has made it clear for the first time that Russia wants to exchange secret agent Vadim Krassikov, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany for the so-called Tiergarten murder, with American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Moscow since spring 2023 on espionage charges.

The president did not mention Krasikov, who according to the German verdict shot the Chechen of Georgian nationality Zelimkhan Changoshvili in the Tiergarten in an act of “state terrorism” in 2019, by name in an interview with American television personality Tucker Carlson. However, from the circumstances it emerges that the FSB killer Krassikov is being referred to. Putin said that in a US-allied country “there is someone who, out of patriotic considerations, liquidated a bandit in a European capital.”

During “the events in the Caucasus” (the second Chechen war), that man laid captured soldiers on a road and drove over their heads in his car. Putin had previously not said this about Changoshvili, but described him as an “absolutely bloody murderer.”

According to a Russian anti-terrorism law, killings are also permitted abroad; the president must order them. Soon after the Berlin verdict, American media reported in the summer of 2022 that Russia's secret services wanted to exchange Krassikov for Americans imprisoned there. Putin again accused Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, of having “received secret information on a conspiratorial basis” in Russia.

Gershkovich, the newspaper and Washington reject the allegations. Putin made it clear that he sees Gershkovich as a bargaining chip: It is “more or less pointless to keep him in prison in Russia,” he said. They are ready to come to an agreement and their American “colleagues” should “consider how these problems can be solved.”