Russia Update: Investigators Announces Organizer of Nemtsov’s Murder is Driver They Let Slip

December 29, 2015
Portrait of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov amid flowers on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, the site of his murder. Photo by Oleg Yakovlev/RBC

Live Updates: Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that investigators have determined that the organizer of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is Ruslan Mukhudinov, the driver for Ruslan Geremeyev, officer of the Sever Battalion where the lead defendant Zaur Dadayev served.

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Russia’s Investigative Committee Announces That Organizer of Nemtsov’s Murder is Driver of Interior Troops Officer They Let Slip Away reports today, December 29 that Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that investigators have determined that the organizer of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is Ruslan Mukhudinov, the driver for Ruslan Geremeyev, the head of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s Sever Battalion. The lead defendant Zaur Dadayev also served in this unit.
This version of the murder has been leaked in various forms for months, but this is the first official declaration by the Investigative Committee.
Markin also said that today investigators will formally charge the five Chechens already in custody: Zaur Dadayev, Anzor and Shadid Gugashev, Temirlan Eskherkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev. That indicates that the efforts of their lawyers to show alibis for the night of the murder have failed.
Markin said there were more than 70 pieces of evidence tying the five men to the murder: situational, phonographic, psychological, DNA, and complex forensic evidence. Also included are tapes from surveillance cameras; interrogations of a number of persons; and results of analysis of items and documents. The investigators also say that 15 million rubles was promised to the killer of Nemtsov (US $206,000). The investigation is planned to be completed in January 2016.
The defendants are accused of committing murder for hire as part of an organized group, and also unlawful acquisition, carrying, transport and storage of firearms ( Art. 105, section 2, par. zh, z and Art. 222, section 3 of the Russian Criminal Code).
Law-enforcers were slow in going after Mukhudinov, who was seen on surveillance tapes as stalking Nemtsov, and he has reportedly left the country for Qatar. Russian authorities placed him on their international wanted list, and said a murder case regarding his role will be separated from the main case.
This announcement leaves unanswered the questions surrounding Geremeyev, who also is said to have fled the country.
Yesterday as we reported, Judge Artur Karpov pronounced lawful the refusal of investigators to re-define the murder of Boris Nemtsov from “homicide” to “attempt on the life of a state or civic figure,” a more serious offense that would acknowledge Nemtsov’s public role as an opposition leader.
Vadim Prokhorov, attorney for Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova, had filed the appeal. He commented that the authorities were politicizing the case themselves.
Investigators earlier claimed they could not establish the identity of the contractor of the murder, as distinct from the direct perpetrators, and therefore could not characterize the killing as a political assassination.
Vadim Prokhov told that by declaring Mukhudinov as the contractor, the investigators are shielding the real criminals (translation by The Interpreter):

“I consider this statement as nothing but a New Year’s present for Ramzan Kadyrov. Because who is Mukhudinov – he is the personal driver and aide to Ruslan Geremeyev, who couldn’t possibly have his own motives for murdering Nemtsov.”

Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic who is often described as maintaining the Interior Troops as his own “private army,” was not questioned in the murder nor were senators Adam Delimkhanov and Suleiman Geremeyev, influential Chechens who are his close associates and related to Ruslan Geremeyev. He demonstratively offered to be questions back in April, but was never taken up on his offer. As Prokhorov said in August:

“The investigation has obtained significant achievements in establishing the perpetrators but there is total uncertainty about the contractors and organizers of the murder. There is an entire number of witness testimonies about the personal threats of Ramzan Kadyrov against Boris Nemtsov, there are a number of publications, there are the complaints of Boris Nemtsov himself to [FSB head Aleksandr] Bortnikov.”

Prokhorov told RBC that at best, Mukhudinov was only a low-level organizer of the crime.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick¬†