Russia charges suspect over Putin rival Nemtsov’s murder

Sixth suspect charged in absentia with assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, while another key suspect remains at large

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A portrait of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night, is seen during a march to commemorate him in central Moscow March 1, 2015

A suspect in the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov has been charged, a lawyer working for his family told Russian media.

The suspect, Ruslan Mukhutdinov, is reportedly a member of the security forces in the Russian federal republic of Chechnya, lawyer Vadim Prokhorov revealed.

“He was accused of being an organiser, which means he was just carrying out someone else’s orders,” Prokhorov said.

Mukhutdinov, who served the North battalion, a security unit bound to the Chechen interior ministry, was charged in absentia.

He is the fifth suspect to be charged by Russia’s Central Investigative Committee for the assassination.

The other five suspects, all from the North Caucasus region, remain in police custody as the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder continues.

Suspects Zaur Dadaev and Anzor Gubashev in March denied guilt in a courtroom after they were charged with involvement in the murder.

Zaur Dadayev looks out from a defendants' cage inside a court building in Moscow.

Dadaev had previously confessed to the killing, but Kremlin official Andrei Babushkin raised concerns over signs that Dadaev had been forced to do so under torture.

Gubashev's younger brother Shagid, Khamzad Bakhaev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, are also charged with involvement.

In March, Russian news reports also cited unnamed sources saying a sixth suspect, Beslan Shavanov, had killed himself with a grenade after police blocked his apartment in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

Investigators, however, are yet to determine who ordered the killing.

Damning report

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and avid critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was killed on Moscow's Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge just 200 metres from the Kremlin on Feb. 27, hours after calling Putin’s policies in Ukraine "mad” and “aggressive" on a radio programme.

People came to the site of Boris Nemtsov's murder (2015-02-28)

Before his murder, Nemtsov had also been working on a report detailing direct Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

The 64-page report, called ‘Putin.War’, was eventually completed in May and published by opposition figures led by Nemtsov’s friend Ilya Yashin, in which it was claimed that at least 220 Russian servicemen had been killed while fighting in 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.

The report further claimed 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.

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 cyber attacks.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2015.

Mystery over missing suspect

Zhanna Nemtsova, the slain opposition leader’s daughter, who said Putin had “political responsibility” for her father’s murder, has urged investigators to probe Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, a close aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prokhorov also criticised investigators for not questioning Ruslan Geremeyev, a senior officer from the same battalion as Mukhutdinov, who allegedly spent time with the suspects in Moscow before the murder, even though a warrant to question him had previously been issued.

Geremeyev, who is currently believed to be in hiding, has not made any statements to date regarding his alleged involvement in Nemtsov’s murder.

While it is widely speculated Geremeyev is being sheltered in Chechnya, a source speaking to The Sunday Times newspaper in May claimed he may have fled to Turkey or the the United Arab Emirates.

TRTWorld and agencies