On Sunday, the ninth day since the murder of Russian opposition leader and former vice prime minister Boris Nemtsov, the list of suspected and detained assassins had included names of six men, one of whom allegedly blew himself up with a grenade.
Not a single one of the suspects’ names sounded Russian. All were said to have come from the North Caucasus, and one of the key suspects, Zaur Dadayev, reportedly served as a deputy commander of an interior ministry battalion in Chechnya. Dadayev admitted his involvement in Nemtsov’s murder, according to a spokeswoman at the Basmanny court in Moscow on Sunday. The court formally arrested Dadayev.
The other four detained suspects, Anzor Gubashev, Shagid Gubashaev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, and Khamzat Bakhayev, denied involvement in the crime.
It was remarkable, some Moscow experts noted, that most of the information about detainees came not from the offices of judicial officials but from Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the major security agency in charge of investigating, among other things, crimes committed by the so-called “Islamic underground.” The FSB is the successor organization to the old Soviet KGB.
One more suspect, a 30-year-old resident of Chechnya, Beslan Shavanov, allegedly committed suicide during a special police operation on Saturday night, according to the generally reliable website Caucasus Knot.
That night, Chechen special forces surrounded Shavanov in a multiple-story building in downtown Grozny, the Chechen capital. Shavanov did not have any criminal record, reports say. The order to detain him came from Moscow.
Why would Chechens be involved in killing an opposition leader?
An expert and journalist covering the North Caucasus, Orkhan Dzhemal, sees the allegation as a predictable development, and the kind the FSB may consider easy for the Russians public to accept, with “a Chechen trail” and Nemtsov being “a sacred victim” ordered by the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion fighting in Ukraine against pro-Russian rebels—even thought Nemtsov was one of the most outspoken Russian critics of those rebels and of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for them.
By this somewhat convoluted reasoning, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Western “Chechens killed Nemtsov on purpose to harm Putin,” Dzhemal said in an interview for Russian independent network Dozhd TV. Dzhemal also said that he expected to hear that Nemtsov’s murderers came from anti-Maidan revolution circles and that according to his knowledge and understanding that the order to kill Nemtsov did not come from the government of Ukraine.
The core question remains unanswered: Who ordered the murder of Boris Nemtsov?
The politician’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova, a television journalist at RBC channel (and no relation to the author of this article), doubts that the real murderers of her father are going to be punished. In an interview with Bild am Sonntag, the largest-selling Sunday paper in Germany, Nemtsova said that she was convinced her father was killed “because he was against of the Kremlin.”
Nemtsova insisted that the “contract murder” of her father was committed with “full support of the authorities,” and that her father’s killers “knew for sure that they would never be punished.”
Boris Nemtsov’s friend, the prominent opposition activist and political analyst Vladimir Milov, finds it suspicious that on the night of Nemtsov’s murder federal security video cameras on a light pole over the murder scene were not working. Milov pointed that out this and other anomalies in his detailed analysis published last week.
Milov also wondered if Nemtsov was killed right in front of “operative security” employees, who had always followed him around Moscow, especially on the nights before political rallies.
Nemtsov was murdered one day before a major opposition rally that he had called for, dubbing it the Spring protest. After his murder, the rally was cancelled. Instead of Spring, over 30,000 people came out to the Kremlin wall, the murder scene, in memory of Nemtsov, demanding that the Kremlin investigate who really killed the politician.
It appears that the FSB and the Putin government want to declare the case closed. The Russian public may not agree.