Russia Charges 2 Chechens in Nemtsov Killing – Voice of America
Russian authorities Sunday charged two Chechens with the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and detained three others for questioning in his killing late last month within sight of the Kremlin.
All five appeared in a Moscow court as officials continued their investigation of the February 27 shooting death of Nemtsov, a staunch foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was shot four times in the back as he walked across a bridge with his girlfriend.
State news media identified the two officially accused of murdering the 55-year-old Nemtsov as Zaur Dadayev, a deputy commander for the Chechen police, and Anzor Gubashev, who worked for a private security company in Moscow. Authorities identified one of those detained for questioning as Gubashev’s younger brother, Shagid.
The other two are Ramzan Bakhayev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov.
Dadayev’s mother, Aaimani Dadayeva, told the Interfax news agency, “I can’t believe it. He could not have committed this crime.” She said her son has worked for Chechen law enforcement agencies for the last decade.
No motive yet
Despite the detention of the five suspects, no information has emerged about a possible motive for the killing.
Nemtsov’s allies say his assassination was ordered at the highest levels of the Russian government to silence critics. Russia has fought two fierce wars in the last 20 years against separatists in Chechnya allied with Islamic fundamentalists and security forces continue to clash with insurgents.
Putin has called the killing “a provocation” and vowed the government would do everything to ensure those responsible are “properly punished.”
One of Nemtsov’s closest allies in the opposition, Ilya Yashin, expressed his skepticism on Facebook after the arrests were announced, saying it is “hard to judge” whether these are the real perpetrators. He said it is extremely important that in addition to the shooters, those who ordered the killing are also identified and detained.
Nemtsov’s killing occurred two days before he was to have led an anti-war and anti-Putin rally in Moscow. The opposition figure had also been working on a report about Russian military involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
After his death, the planned rally was transformed into a tribute to Nemtsov.
A few weeks before the shooting, Nemtsov told the Russian news website Sobesednik he thought Putin wanted him dead, and did not hold back his contempt for the Russian leader.
“I’m afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more,” Nemtsov said.
Nemtsov was a deputy prime minister in the 1990s, and many Russian observers predicted he would succeed then-President Boris Yeltsin.
After President Boris Yeltsin chose Vladimir Putin as his successor, and Putin was subsequently elected in 2000, Nemtsov became one of Russia’s sharpest and most outspoken Putin critics, especially following last year’s uprising in Ukraine.
In September, Nemtsov told VOA that Putin wants revenge for Ukraine’s overthrow of its pro-Russian president.
He said Putin fears that what happened in Ukraine could happen in Russia, and sees a pro-European Ukraine as a threat to his own power.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.