Russian diplomat found dead in Berlin, embassy refused autopsy

German authorities found a Russian diplomat dead on the pavement outside the Russian embassy last month, according to reports made public Friday. 

Berlin police discovered the body of Kirill Zhalo, 35, on the sidewalk in front of the embassy building on the morning of Oct. 19. First responders attempted to revive Zhalo but did not succeed. 

Zhalo allegedly fell out of a window, but the truth of what happened may never come to light: The embassy did not agree to an autopsy of the body, and German authorities cannot conduct an investigation due to Zhalo’s diplomatic status. 

Nov. 5, 2021, Berlin: A Russian flag flies at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

Nov. 5, 2021, Berlin: A Russian flag flies at the Russian embassy in Berlin. (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Zhalo’s body returned to Russia within days of the incident, according to Dutch journalism site Bellingcat, which also first identified Zhalo using “open-source data.”  

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Records indicate that Zhalo worked in the embassy as assistant secretary since the summer of 2019, but German security authorities believed that Zhalo was instead a member of the Russian FSB agency, Der Spiegel reported. 

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 05: People walk past the Russian Embassy on November 05, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. A Russian diplomat of the embassy was reportedly found dead on the sidewalk in front of the embassy on October 19, apparently after having fallen from a window. Media are reporting that the man, 35, was an agent of the FSB, Russia's intelligence agency, and the son of a high-ranking FSB official. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BERLIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 05: People walk past the Russian Embassy on November 05, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. A Russian diplomat of the embassy was reportedly found dead on the sidewalk in front of the embassy on October 19, apparently after having fallen from a window. Media are reporting that the man, 35, was an agent of the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, and the son of a high-ranking FSB official. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

More specifically, Zhalo may have been the son of a high-ranking officer in the FSB Second Service, Gen. Alexey Zhalo. 

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The FSB – or Federal Security Service in English – serves as the prime security agency of Russia, replacing the Soviet Union’s KGB. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny takes part in a march at Strastnoy Boulevard in memory of Russian politician and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on the fourth anniversary of his death in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 24, 2019. Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge in the evening of February 27, 2015.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny takes part in a march at Strastnoy Boulevard in memory of Russian politician and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on the fourth anniversary of his death in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 24, 2019. Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge in the evening of February 27, 2015. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The FSB Second Service is also the agency believed to be responsible for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the summer of 2020. 

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Bellingcat famously assisted Navalny in presenting evidence to try and connect the FSB to his poisoning. 

“All formalities linked to repatriating the body of the diplomat were promptly settled with the responsible law enforcement and medical authorities of Germany in accordance with the practices in place,” the embassy said in its statement to Russian news agency Interfax.

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The Russian embassy called Zhalo’s death a “tragic accident” that it could not comment on for “ethical reasons.” 

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