A report published by opposition claims at least 220 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war in eastern Ukraine over the past year, despite the Kremlin denying accusations that it sent troops to fight alongside pro-Russian separatist rebels in the region.
The 64-page report, called ‘Putin.War’, was originally drawn up by assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and was completed and published by opposition figures led by Ilya Yashin and released on Tuesday.
The report was shared with journalists in Moscow at the headquarters of the RPR-PARNAS party, which was founded by Nemtsov before his death.
Around 3,000 hard copies of the report have been printed so far, with more printing planned in the future. An online version of the report will also be released.
It claims the Russian soldiers were released from their duties before joining the conflict as volunteers with the promise of receiving compensation from the Defence Ministry if they are killed or wounded.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot and killed in central Moscow on Feb. 27 while walking on the street less than 200 meters from the Kremlin.
He was returning from an interview where he invited people to a rally against war in Ukraine, which was to be held that weekend in Moscow.
Two days before his murder, Nemtsov had approached his friend Ilya Yashin for help on a report he was working on - supposedly providing details on Russian soldiers fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Shortly after Nemtsov was killed, investigators confiscating computers, hard drives, contact books and notebooks from his apartment, Yashin revealed, before the lost documents were restored with the help of his assistants and his employees, many of whom could not be convinced to go on record with their evidence.
A similar report prepared by Nemtsov into corruption under Putin’s reign was targeted by Russian authorities in 2010 when police seized a car carrying 100,000 hard copies of the report, while the website which published the report was also hit by cyberattacks.
Nemtsov’s daughter, 30-year-old TV presenter Zhanna Nemtsova, slammed Putin after her father’s assassination, saying he bears “political responsibility” for the murder.
Zaur Dadayev, a former Chechen police officer, admitted to taking part in the murder of Nemtsov and was immediately charged along with a second Chechen suspect, Anzor Gubashev. Three other men - Gubashev's younger brother Shagid, Khamzad Bakhaev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov - were also remanded.
Russian news reports meanwhile cited unnamed sources as saying another suspect had killed himself with a grenade after police blocked his apartment in Grozny, the capital of the Republic of Chechnya.
However, Kremlin official Andrei Babushkin said there were signs that Dadayev had confessed to the murder under torture, adding he had seen "numerous wounds" on the body of the suspect when he visited him in his cell.