Five men convicted in assassination of Russia opposition leader

The late politician's allies said the investigation had been a cover-up and that the people who had ordered his killing remained at large.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Zaur Dadayev was found guilty of firing the four fatal shots.

A Russian jury on Thursday found all five defendants guilty of organising and carrying out the contract killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, after a trial his allies say failed to unmask the masterminds. 

Former deputy prime minister Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down just metres from the Kremlin as he walked home with his girlfriend late on the evening of February 27, 2015.

The brazen murder in central Moscow was the most high-profile political killing in Russia since Putin rose to power some 17 years ago, but Nemtsov's family insists authorities refused to probe people close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who  they suspect ordered the hit.

TRT World spoke with Moscow-based journalist Julia Lyubova for the latest on the trial.

The 12-person jury ruled on its third day of deliberations that defendants Zaur Dadayev, Shadid and Anzor Gubashev, Temirlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev, all ethnic Chechens from Russia's volatile North Caucasus, carried out the hit as a gang for some $250,000.

Dadayev, a former officer in an interior ministry battalion in Chechnya, was found guilty of firing the four fatal shots. 

The Gubashev brothers, Eskerkhanov and Bakhayev were found guilty of being accomplices. 

The jury's decision was reached by majority vote after they first failed to reach unanimous decisions on the long list of charges against the defendants at the end of ten months of hearings.

The suspects have always denied they were involved in the killing and several retracted initial confessions they said were made under torture. 

They are now facing lengthy jail terms, with the judge set to deliver sentencing after prosecutors set out their demands next week. 

Real masterminds untouched?

While the rulings provide some answers over the killing, Nemtsov's family is adamant that those who ordered the charismatic politician's death have not been identified. 

Nemtsov's daughter Zhanna Nemtsova wrote that the case remained "unsolved" even though she agreed that all of the accused, with the exception of Bakhayev, were involved.

"This was not a complete investigation but only an imitation," she posted on Facebook. 

"In two years... they could not find the organiser and mastermind of the murder," her lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said. "It's a complete fiasco."

Nemtsov's allies say the evidence clearly shows that those close to Kremlin-loyal Chechen strongman Kadyrov or Kadyrov himself were actually behind the assassination.

The Chechen leader, who rules his conflict-scarred region with an iron fist, has denied all involvement and defended some of the accused. 

Nemtsov's family tried and failed to get Kadyrov and some of his top lieutenants, including Dadayev's commander Ruslan Geremeev, questioned. 

Investigators only named Geremeev's driver Ruslan Mukhudinov as an organiser and said he offered the suspects 15 million rubles (about $250,000 or 220,000 euros at current rates) for the murder.

Mukhudinov has since fled and investigators said after the verdict that the case against him was still ongoing. 

No real motive has ever been offered by authorities as to why the hit on Nemtsov was ordered. 

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies