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«He practiced shooting with Putin at a shooting range»: Berlin Bicycle Assassin's relative reveals his biography

Aleksandr Vodorez, a relative of the «bicycle assassin» Vadim Krasikov (arrested after the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin and involved in many other contract killings), in an interview with The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel revealed some details of the killer's biography. According to Vodorez, among other things, Krasikov had served in the KGB-(later FSB) special operations unit Vympel after the war in Afghanistan, had personally met with Putin (and practiced target shooting with him at a shooting range), and was in Ukraine during the Euromaidan shootings.

-Alexander, tell us about yourself in a few words.

-In a nutshell, I'm a businessman from Kharkiv. I am a lawyer, but I also work in agriculture, and write books and poetry in my spare time.

-And when did you realize you knew the man involved in the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin?

-It was the end of 2019. I saw the news that there was some kind of a Russian special ops and espionage base, I believe, in France, in the mountains somewhere. No emphasis was made on the Berlin murder, but there were several pictures in the news report, and I saw a familiar face, Vadim's face. I started looking for information and that's when I saw your investigation.

-Who is Vadim to you?

-He's my brother-in-law. I have a wife, Daria, she has a sibling, Katerina, and he's her husband.

Aleksandr Vodorez
Aleksandr Vodorez

-How long have you known Vadim Krasikov?

-Since 2010. I mean, by that point I had known the man for nine years and that was enough.

-But at the trial you were unable to give a definite answer whether or not you could identify the arrested person.

-I was understandably not sincere at the trial when I didn't explicitly admit it was him. But you can understand my situation: I just came to Germany and suddenly they tell me: «We can't help you with security at all.» I understand that I'm about to be targeted by the Russian secret services. I say: «Wait, maybe there's some format for that?». You know, witness protection and all that. «No, it won't work for you.» I tensed up. I read reports somewhere on the web which said I was not sure. No, I was sure the person before me was Vadim Krasikov, I just cut myself short, because I realized I was sentencing myself. I had to sort it out, rethink everything and figure out how to move forward. So, in that moment, I immediately said: «I'm not sure. I'm not ready to say whether it's him or not,» although I identified him immediately.

-After the testimony, you tried to contact Bellingcat and help with the investigation.

-Faced with circumstances that prevented me from being absolutely frank in the courtroom, I wrote a letter to Bellingcat, but apparently it went to spam. <Indeed, Bellingcat managed to recover this letter sometime later - The Insider>.

-At which point did you find out he had something to do with the intelligence services or something like that?

-Katya, my wife's sister, went to Moscow for work. Our countries were still at peace then, everything was fine. She started working there as a successful manager in a store, and at some point, her sister called her and said she'd met a man, he was in the military and in the services. Then there was one occasion when Katya said one day: «We got into a car accident and some lady started yelling about her brother being a police general», and he pulled out some papers of his own and showed her; she immediately apologized to him, and my wife's sister realized he was an FSB officer. At the time, though, she said he was with the SPC (Ed. - Special Purpose Centre – one of the main counter-terrorism units of the Federal Security Service). That was the first time I heard about it, back in 2010 or 2011, and I realized he was working for the Russian special services.

Some lady started yelling about her brother being a police general, and he pulled out some papers of his own, and she apologised

-In one of the photos that were produced in court, he was wearing a T-shirt with the emblem of the FSB Special Purpose Center.

-It is worth remembering that the FSB's Vympel, which is now part of the Special Purpose Center, first came to light back in the time of the war in Afghanistan. Vadim got into Afghanistan at the very end. He studied at the Ryazan Airborne School, and as a young officer he went through Afghanistan.

-He was just a paratrooper then?

-Yeah, that's when he got there, and he drew his first blood and did everything else there. That’s why he has the Vympel emblem on all his shirts. He used to bring back some calendars, t-shirts, and we once talked about an agency with which he was on friendly terms. At the time, though, he said it wasn't exactly where he was serving.

-If not there, where?

-He said at the beginning of our conversation: «Let's make a deal: you don't ask me questions about my work, because I won't tell the truth, and I don't want to lie.» I was immediately intrigued by it. At first, I thought he was simply with the SPC, riding with Putin, ensuring his security, but then I saw it didn't add up: there were times when Putin stayed put while Vadim traveled. So, I started adding two and two together.

-So, he never told you anything about his work?

-He kept it to a minimum. He spoke only on a few occasions when we had a meal or went to a bathhouse or had a drink together. One day, for example, we were talking about the French Legion. When I was young, I wanted to join. We started to talk, and he expertly told me he had been there, and then, boom, he paused and changed the subject. But he knew everything about me, and that says a lot about him too. He would say: «I know such and such things about you,» and then he would tell my story. He could only have such information if he was a part of a secret service; they must have shown him my file and told him everything.

-Did he mention any awards?

-There were two occasions. A former president of Kyrgyzstan, I do not remember which one, gave him a pistol. He used to go there on business trips quite often, there were some difficulties, the revolution, he helped him to get out. And the second time, our family saw a picture in which he was wearing a civilian jacket, but with decorations. I don't remember what decorations were there, I could only see they were not jubilee-related, they were the real deal.

-Where's that picture now?

-My parents tore it up during the search.

-So Krasikov himself didn't talk much about his service?

-I don't know about that. We went to a bathhouse and had very detailed and interesting conversations there, both sober and drunk. Back then we had Yanukovych, whom I despised all the time, because to me he was some kind of Donbass stooge, while they had Putin. And once I said: «Your Putin is so capable,» and he said: «He's not capable at all» and started telling me about him. And I said: «You make it sound as if you know something about Putin». And he's like: «Yes, I do.» One word at a time, and he tells me what, where and how.

-Did he have a negative attitude towards Putin?

-He had an objective view of Putin. The war hadn't even started back then, and he already knew a lot.

-What exactly did he say about Putin?

-That they had some kind of contact. I don't know the details. But when Vadim and I practiced target shooting at a range (he is, by the way, a very good shot), it turned out that he had seen Putin shoot; according to him he's also a good shot. At the time I thought he knew it because he was with the SPC, and only later I realized it did not add up because of his business trips. And Vadim had a lot of business trips, he said those trips literally took him around the world.

-Did you see him often?

-He had flown in every year since 2010, up until the events of Euromaidan. I was on the Maidan myself then, and I even had a feeling, I even told Dasha: «You know, it feels like Vadim is looking at me through the scope.» Why did I say that? You know, you can recognize a man by his silhouette, his springy gait, the way he moves his shoulders. They all had their faces covered. At that time, they were telling their parents they were going on vacation with their families, somewhere warm. And then near the end of Euromaidan, they showed up in Kharkiv, arriving in a car with Ukrainian license plates.

-Was Vadim Krasikov in Ukraine in 2014?

-I'm 100% sure he was.

-In what month?

-In January, I believe. They said they'd left for somewhere warm, but then it turned out they had been in Kiev, and then they feared somebody might start getting wrong thoughts about Vadim with his distinct Russian accent, given the events that were going down; people next door started talking about «the Russian officers» that had arrived, so they left for Kharkiv. <The Insider and Bellingcat were able to confirm that Krasikov was in Ukraine during Euromaidan>.

-Was it still winter then?

-It was in mid-January 2014, even before the shooting started. And they came for a short visit, and Katya once asked her parents: «How does Sashka feel about Vadim?» And they like: «Why do you ask questions like that?» «Well, we've got all those messed up things over there, trouble's coming.» We met and had a normal conversation. I witnessed a situation: his phone rang, he picked it up, talked to someone, then immediately smashed the phone, smashed the SIM card, and threw it in the trash. I watched it all and took it all in. Another interesting point - he asked me if I could tell the region of Ukraine by a car's license plate. And I saw several different license plates in his trunk.

-Was it all in the winter of 2014?

-Yeah, like Putin said: «Patriotically-minded officers saved President Yanukovych». I personally think Vadim was one of them, also patriotic. Somehow it all adds up too neatly. And at the end of 2014 there was some kind of action, and he received some decorations then, I don't know what for and what kind exactly.

-Were there any other oddities like «smashing the phone»?

-Back in 2012, he asked me where in Ukraine he could buy a gun. I was surprised, asked what kind of a gun, he said he'd prefer a Glock. I said I'd ask around and ended the conversation.

-So, did you figure out exactly where he served?

-The logic of events tells me he's involved with special ops. There's not a slightest doubt he was and still is an active intelligence officer. When you look at a man, you always understand how he acts - he's always had a tough routine, he's always strong, fit, and agile, he has a peculiar way of talking. I won't tell you which unit he's from. Originally, he comes from Vympel. He and I are sitting down one day, talking about health, about our knees, and he says: «I do squats like this.» I say: «You're doing it the wrong way.» He says: «We've got men like that in our unit, they're in their 70s,» I say, «If you're 70 years old, you are already retired,» and he's like: «No, we don't have retirees.» I can tell you neither the name of his unit, nor the names of the servicemen. Yeah, there were photos at the wedding, there were videos where you could catch a glimpse of someone. His group was nearby, a general came by, he showed up and disappeared.

-When was the last time he was in Ukraine, was it in 2014?

-Yeah, I didn't see him after that. Then my sister stopped coming as well. As soon as the war broke out, they were forbidden to travel, and their travel passports were taken away.

-They have a good relationship, Vadim, and his wife?

-I believe they had a normal relationship, but I don't know what's going on today. I assume she was convinced he was an intelligence officer. I don't know what's happening to her now that she's found out her husband is a real killer. I can understand war - it's scary, it's horrible, but it's soldiers who are fighting. I can understand intelligence officers, but I can't understand executioners. It turns out, you can travel to any country and kill any person at Putin's command.

-Do the sisters still talk to each other?

-As soon as we were searched, they stopped talking to each other. I suspect they've changed their address in Crimea.

-After the Berlin assassination, did the sisters have time to talk to each other about anything?

-They talked a lot and for a long time. After the murder, Katya started talking: «Vadik got held up on a business trip.» Everything was pretty clear to me back then, but I did not say anything. My wife is tall, but she's like a child. How was I supposed to tell her?

-But you told her at some point?

-About six months in advance, I told her: «Dasha, take in the information. It's hard for me to carry, you're waiting for something, and events are moving this way.» I showed her the information, she took it in. She took it adequately. When the authorities came to search our home, she already understood everything and spoke negatively about him because he got us into trouble.

-When you revealed the information about the murder, how did she react?

-As usual, she cried, but only for her sister. She understands that if Germany's justice system does its job, he's in for life. In fact, his little girl is left without a father.

-After she found out, did she have time to discuss the situation with her sister?

-There has never been any dialogue about this topic at all. When the searches started, my father-in-law and mother-in-law remembered that «Katya told us that if anything happens to you suddenly, do not go anywhere, do not hire a lawyer, let everything run its course». Katya never once gave us any sign during all this time that she had a situation.

-You say that in 2011 he showed his special forces identification card; at the time of the murder, do you think he was still an officer or already a veteran?

-All I know is that in 2016 he was decorated and promoted to a new military rank of Colonel. I asked him: «Are you to be congratulated? You're already a colonel. Why aren't you a general?» and he said: «Well, I guess because I'm not such a scumbag as everyone else.»

In 2016 he was decorated and promoted to a new military rank of Colonel

-Was it in 2016?

-The war had already broken out, and we didn't see each other, but we talked over the phone.

-Have you been in contact in recent years?

-All the way through 2019. I talked to him in 2019 about our elections.

-Is that when Zelensky was elected?

-Yes.

-Did his wife have a legal business, do you know anything about that?

-She might have been formally registered as a business owner, but in fact she was leading the life of a housewife. His job always paid very well.

-How well?

-$10,000 to $15,000 a month.

-So, they had a nice car, a nice apartment?

-Yes, they always had a new car: BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne.

-And speaking of her parents: when they realized who he was, how did they feel about it?

-Well, actually, when everything happened and when I came back from Germany, I invited them home and said: let's talk frankly. Well, of course they were shocked and in tears, that sort of thing.

-So, Katya's parents found out where her husband is only a couple weeks ago?

-They believed in fairy tales about business trips, about trouble.

-Krasikov often flew to Cyprus, did he vacation there?

-He didn't own real estate abroad. I don't know about Cyprus, I only know they often flew abroad and stayed in nice hotels.

-As a matter of fact, FSB officers aren't allowed abroad very often.

-If a man from an elite unit travels all over the world shooting people, who would forbid him to fly somewhere to rest, somehow it doesn't quite make sense.

-You think publicity can keep you safe somehow?

-We're now highlighting the events. While I'm in the spotlight, I have fewer risks. If I see I'm being protected by some group, I'll be prepared to go forward. With that decision in mind, I came in and said I was ready for a next move.

-But can you repeat what you've told us in court?

-Yes, I can do it now.

-What do you think the impact will be for Vadim of what you've said?

-Well, I'm sure they'll put him away for life.

-What did you feel when you saw him in court? He made some threats because he's a special forces man, it's his way of thinking...

-Come on, it's not like I'm 20 years old, I'm not a coward inside. There are reasonable fears and there are unreasonable fears. I have nothing to fear from him. I am, cynically speaking, ready to walk into his cell and say: «Buddy, look, let's talk about life - what you're right about and what you're wrong about.» Maybe you were set up, maybe you did what you had to do, maybe you need to repent, I'm not afraid of that. The only thing that caused me to stall was the fact that at that moment I suddenly realized that I was alone, and that feeling of «being alone» with four sons and a wife behind me kind of made me think twice… it's not a good way to deal with the situation. You know, after the trials, I sit down before boarding the plane and think - well, it's wrong, I should be talking about it, putting it under the spotlight, and moving on.

-You were talking about him being «set up». Do you think there's a possibility that somebody set him up?

-Well, they had a similar situation before, I remember there was a lot of commotion then. It must have been back in '11 or '12. They were involved in some stuff somewhere else.

-What do you mean by «commotion»? Did Katya or someone else start to react?

-Yes, Katya said he had been set up when she last spoke to her parents. «He got into trouble», «they set him up.»

-By the way, do you know what kind of a conversation Katya had with her parents the last time they spoke?

-We were searched at the end of February and right away the parents called Katya and told her we were searched, and after that she immediately went off the grid.

-Your wife's and Katya's mom called Krasikov's mom back in late '19.

-They spoke, they visited each other. Vadim's father died of cancer a little over a year ago, and his mother moved closer to Moscow. His brother, Andrei, moved her closer to Moscow so that it would be easier for him to see her.

-Do you know where Andrei works?

-Andrei owns some kind of business. I tried to talk to Vadim, to find out what kind of business his brother owned, maybe we could do something together, but he said no: «There's a lot of money there, you don't want to get involved.» Well, if he says so.

-A lot of money?

-Yes. Well, they weren't friends, the two brothers. I don't know, maybe Andrei knew everything a long time ago. I, on the other hand, had a change of heart. It's one thing if one is an officer, even in the enemy's army, you perceive him as an officer, a soldier. It's different when you perceive somebody as an assassin who shoots you in the back of the head.

This text is also available in Russian

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