Russia says it is expelling two German diplomats in retaliation for a similar move by Berlin over suspicions that Moscow ordered the killing of an ethnic Chechen in the German capital.
Last week the German government threw out two Russian diplomats.
It suspects Russia or Russia’s Chechen republic ordered the murder in August of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian national. Russia denies involvement.
A Russian citizen is being held in Germany over the killing.
Berlin said it regretted Thursday’s expulsions, but the Kremlin said they were a standard diplomatic move.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday called the man murdered in Berlin a “bandit”, but denied that his country had been involved in his death.
German media have compared the attack on Khangoshvili, a member of Georgia’s ethnic Chechen community, to the attempted murder of Russian former intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK last year.
What happened in Berlin?
Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old former rebel commander in Chechnya, was shot in the head from behind in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in August.
The suspect was detained shortly after the killing when he was allegedly seen dumping a bike, pistol and a wig into the nearby River Spree.
The prosecutor say the suspect flew from Moscow to Paris six days before the killing under an alias.
He said there was evidence to suggest Russia or its Chechen republic was behind the killing, and two diplomats were expelled.
What have the two countries said about latest expulsions?
Russia’s tit-for-tat measure was “unavoidable after two of our diplomats were expelled”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We consider the move by Berlin to be absolutely unfounded.”
“We expect and hope that this will not become a negative factor for the further development and broadening of our constructive dialogue,” he added.
The German Foreign office said it “regretted” Moscow’s decision.
“The expulsion sends the wrong signal and is unjustified,” it tweeted.
Who was the victim?
Khangoshvili fought in the second Chechen war against Russian forces in the North Caucasus in 2001-2005.
He was a close ally of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who masterminded Chechen guerrilla resistance to Russia before he was killed by Russian special forces.
Khangoshvili fled to Germany after surviving an assassination attempt in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2015. He had applied for asylum in Germany but was not granted it.
Chechnya is now run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel who switched sides and is now fiercely loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.