Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Vladimir Putin has awarded medals to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov even after his praise of a suspect in the murder of Boris Nemtsov, and has also awarded Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko. Western critics find the timing suspicious.
– Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
–Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
–Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo: âIt is Seen as Correct to Initiate Annexation of Eastern Regions of Ukraine to Russiaâ
–Former Russian Intelligence Officers Behind Boisto âTrack IIâ Talks â and Now the Flawed Minsk Agreement.
See also our Russia This Week stories:
Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)
Ultranationalists Angry over âCapitulationâ of Minsk Agreement,
âAnti-Maidanâ Launched by Nationalists, Cossacks, Veterans, Bikers
The Guild War â How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists?
Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costsâ.
We noted that the desk calendar on the desk of President Vladimir Putin seemed to show just one digit in his meeting with Karelian Governor Aleksandr Khudilaynen — confirming sources that said the meeting took place March 4, not March 11, as the Kremlin and TV1 reported.
What about his meeting reported by the Kremlin as taking place yesterday, March 10?
Here’s another screenshot from another broadcast, this time from TV Tsentr of Putin’s meeting with Dmitry Kobylkin, governor of the Yamal-Nemets Autonomous Region, which was supposed to have taken place March 10, but sources say Kobylkin didn’t come to the Kremlin on that day.
The desktop calendar looks like there is only one digit that day, too.
Maybe Putin forgets to turn over the pages on his calendar. Or maybe it’s not a calendar, but just inspiring quotations.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As we noted, there’s some speculation that Vladimir Putin may not have appeared in public in the last week.
There are reports that Aleksandr Khudilaynen, the Karelian governor reported to have met with Putin today, March 11, actually met with him on March 4, and what is aired now tonight on TV1 came from that date.
A desk calendar is visible in the broadcast from TV1 aired tonight. Does it just show a single digit, March 4? It seems so.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The mystery continues about whether or not President Vladimir Putin is sick or is not appearing in public.
On Kremlin.ru today, March 11, there is a news report of a meeting with Aleksandr Khudalaynin, the governor of Karelia.
Yet the independent media have pointed out that this meeting was covered in the local Vesti Karelii on March 4 and March 5. Here’s a screenshot of the newspaper, clearing showing both the date of an article, and inside the article, a reference to previous coverage on March 4, the date reported as when the meeting took place with Putin.
Meanwhile, Russia’s state television channel TV1 has aired footage of the meeting with the Karelian governor to discuss new pipelines and gasification, implying it took place today.
To add to the confusion, Khudilaynin posted a news story today, March 11, about the meeting with the transcript of the meeting.
But that may be due to the fact that he was waiting for the approved transcript to come from the Kremlin, which was posted today.
As the Vesti Karelii article by Svetlana Lysenko indicated, the meeting was scheduled for the 4th, but not announced until the 11th. The Karelian journalists were preoccupied at the time with whether Putin would keep Kudilaynen as acting governor and recommend his re-election or whether he would be removed to a lesser post, given his low ratings.
Kudilaynen had brought in Vladimir Yevtushenkov, CEO of Sistema, who was put under house arrest for a time last year on fraud charges but then released, then brought in the president of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov but this didn’t seem to improve his position. With the republic’s debt now twice was it was before he took office and investment dropping despite the governor’s “lobbying of the interests of St. Petersburg businessmen” his future was an open question.
Here’s a translation of the relevant sections of this article by Svetlana Lysenko:
According to unofficial information from Karelian fellow countrymen from the Russian capital, on the night of 4th March the meeting took place. However, for some reason, the Kremlin press service is still maintaining silence about it, and according to rumors, plans to announce this meeting only next week. As a source in the Karelian government informed us, this is sometimes the practice.
The only thing that we managed to find out with quite some difficulty: the topic of the elections was supposedly not discussed. And once again, according to unofficial information, the resolution of tihs matter has been postponed until next May. This is understandable, there isn’t money on a lot of elections, including not cheap ones. And we have to still live until May, as they say.
Could those sources — Karelians in Moscow — have been wrong?
They’re the only indication that the meeting took place on the 4th — along with the “source in the Karelian government” who didn’t tell the journalists at the time that the meeting hadn’t taken place.
The fact that Kremlin.ru published the transcript of the meeting today with a picture, and that TV1 broadcast the meeting today doesn’t prove that it took place today. Meanwhile, there’s significant evidence that it took place earlier.
Coupled with the news that Dmitry Kobylkin, another provincial governor, didn’t actually see Putin on the 10th, the question of Putin’s public appearances remains open.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Earlier we discussed a rumor the Putin is sick, or possibly indisposed for political reasons, because he has cancelled a meeting of the Customs Union. Putin’s office responded by the rumors by posting a picture that reportedly shows Putin today, but as we pointed out that picture is old.
Putin’s office also claims that he met with Dmitry Kobylkin, governor of the Yamal-Nenetsky Autonomous Region. But now the Russian press outlet RBC is saying that this is not true.
The Russian blogger Oleg Kashin tweets:
Translation: Two sources at RBC, close to the Kremlin, say that yesterday Kobylkin did not come to the Kremlin
In fact, RBC’s top story right now is about how Putin has not been seen in public since the end of last week. The article also claims that according to RBC’s source, Kobylkin did not go to the Kremlin, despite claims to the contrary from Kobylkin’s press service.
RBC reports (translated by The Interpreter):
Putin was last seen in public on March 5, says RBC.ru, when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
After that he was said to hold a meeting on March 8, International Women’s Day, with women and children. But in fact, this meeting was taped by Putin’s personal cameraman on March 5, one of the participants in the meeting told RBC. He said the president produced a good impression on the women, but looke
Then on March 6, there was an internal meeting of the Security Council and the meetings with the Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and in the evening, a meeting with Vladimir Dmitriev, head of the Vneshekonombank.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov insists that the meetings with the two governors took place as it says on kremlin.ru, although other sources contradict this. Peskov did confirm that the meeting with the women for March 8 was taped in advance “on the eve of the holiday.”
The denials from the Kremlin, and the loose ends, are fueling all kinds of speculation that Putin is perhaps sick, or is not appearing in public for some other non-disclosed reason. Is that reason, a “political flu,” that the FSB and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov are at war, like Kashin suggests, or because there are rumors of a palace coup growing as suggested last week by Lenta.ru, or because of a head cold or some other ailment, or because of something else entirely?
The reality is that it is not clear when Putin was last seen or why he has posted an old picture of a meeting with Aleksandr Khudilaynen of the Republic of Karelia. It is clear that the rumors about Putin will likely only get louder in light of today’s intrigue, however.
— James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Norman Dombey, emeritus professor of nuclear physics at the University of Sussex, has testified at an inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Dombey says that the nuclear material which killed Livinenko, polonium, has a half-life of only 138 days, and only one facility in the world was making it at the time of Litvinenko’s death — the Avangard nuclear plant in Sarov, Russia.
The Guardian reports:
Dombey said the quantity used to kill Litvinenko – he swallowed an astonishing 26.5 microgrammes – was exceptionally large. All other countries including the US and UK stopped making polonium in the 1970s. Avangard was the last remaining source of commercial polonium, with no other nuclear facility capable of making sufficient quantities…
Doctors only identified polonium as the poison hours before Litvinenko died. Unlike other radioactive substances, it emits alpha rather than gamma particles. “This poisoning was not meant to be discovered,” Dombey concluded. “It was meant to be a mysterious poisoning because polonium is an alpha-emitter which a Geiger counter doesn’t pick up.”
He also said that the Russians involved in the murder plot would have tested the poison in advance. Too small a dose would have been ineffective; too big would have been a massive risk to public health. Citing sources in Russia, Dombey said Russian agents had previously tested polonium on a Chechen, Lecha Islamov, who was serving a nine-year sentence in jail.
Litvinenko was a former FSB agent who fled to the UK, where he became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, after accusing the Russian government of assassinating Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
— James Miller
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the presidential administration, has refuted rumors that President Vladimir Putin has fallen ill, slon.ru reported.
Earlier a source in the government of Kazakhstan told Reuters that Putin was going to miss the Eurasian Customs Union summit in Astana scheduled for March 13 due to illness. Aside from Putin, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka were going to take part. The meeting will be delayed a few days.
Slon.ru printed a correction at the bottom of their story regarding a photo with a story dated today, March 11 about a meeting between Aleksandr Khudilaynen of the Republic of Karelia. In fact it was taken on March 4, as a Karelian newspaper reported.
But we could point out that means that the photo that was supposed to show Putin was well and taking meetings today has just been shown to be dated a week earlier.
Yesterday, March 10, Putin was shown meeting with Dmitry Kobylkin, governor of the Yamal-Nenetsky Autonomous Region.
Kobylkin covered the meeting on his own web site, using the same picture.
Putin could have problems with the Eurasian Customs Union, which has only two of Russia’s allies willing to join it so far.
But he may be preoccupied with matters in the Kremlin, whether the uproar around the investigation into the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, or other stresses.
Yesterday, Moskovsky Komsomolets published an account of a visit to Lefortovo Prison (translated by The Interpreter ) by some members of the Public Observation Committee who heard from the Chechen suspects in the Nemtsov murder investigation that they had been tortured. Zaur Dadayev, an officer in the Interior Ministry troops of Chechnya, told the monitors that he was beaten and a sack was put over his head while he was brought on an airplane to Moscow.
Today, Anton Tsvetkov, the head of the Public Observation Committee is walking back these claims. Slon.ru reported (translated by The Interpreter):
There are no signs of torture and bruises are not documented. Information [from the detainees] about the use of torture on them did not elicit trust, said Tsetkov, who also holds the post of the chairman of the civic organization Officers of Russia.
Thus it seems to come down to a disagreement between Andrei Babushkin, a long-time prison rights activists and Tsetvkov, who heads an officers’ rights group about what they heard from Zaur Dadayev, an officer in the Interior Ministry troops of Chechnya, and the Gubashev brothers arrested with him.
Both Babushkin and Tsvetkov are members of the Presidential Human Rights Council, a group which some human rights activists have said is now thoroughly co-opted by the government, but others say still represents a forum in which they can get attention for severe human rights problems in Russia.
When Tsetkov, who grew up in a family of KGB officers, took over the leadership of the Public Observation Commission in 2013, long-time human rights organizations expressed their concerns — his group is concerned with defending the rights of military people under investigation. Human Rights in Russia reported at the time:
According to Oleg Kozyrev, “The security officials have just seized control
of the Moscow POC. It will become almost impossible for human rights
activists to visit political prisoners or indeed any prisoners.”
a blatant breach of the rules. The problem is not whether we will
challenge the decision, it’s the fact that the Commission won’t be able
to function, it will be unworkable,” one of the founders and the first
head of the POC, Valery Borshchev, told Interfax.
Yesterday Babushkin, Tsvetkov, a journalist from Moskovsky Komsomolets and Eva Merkacheva, a deputy of Tsvetkov and also coordinator of the association of independent human rights advocates at gulagu.net (No to Gulag”) visited Lefortovo.
Tsvetkov said there is no threat to the life of Dadayev and the Gubashev brothers but that he was “not hastening to draw conclusions” and that “the investigation should examine this carefully.” Tsvetkov did say that all three denied their guilt — which is different to the statement made after the arrest by FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov, who said that Dudayev had admitted to the murder.
In Babushkin’s view, there was no question that the victims had been tortured as they had cuts and bruises on them, notably at their wrists, which indicated their handcuffed arms were twisted and they were chained to the wall. The prisoners themselves told the visitors they had been tortured before being brought to Lefortovo, where they were treated better. Babushkin also urged the Public Observation Commission to sent a statement about the signs of torture to the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s office.
While at Lefortovo yesterday, the commission members tried in vain to
get a copy of a prison physician’s report and also a fabric bag that
Dadayev said was used to put over his head, and was left with his
But the answer that Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin had to this report of torture was to say the Commission had no standing, and the prisoners themselves had to make complaints — and worse threaten threaten Babushkin and Merkachev with prosecution for “obstructing an investigation.”
A notice published on the Investigative Committee’s site, Sledkom.ru, today says (translation by The Interpreter):
The visit by the members of the Public Observation Commission of the city of Moscow of Zaur Dadayev, arrested in the criminal case of the murder of Boris Nemtsov was organized exclusively for determining the conditions of his detention.
The members of this commission, among whom are Eva Merkachev and Andrei Babushkin are not participants of the criminal case, and became interested in the materials of the criminal case, thus violating not only the established rules but the law. Such actions can only be evaluated as interference in the activity of the investigator for the purposes of hindering in every way a full and objective investigation of the case, that is, Art. 294, part 2 of the RF Criminal Code.
These actions will be given the appropriate procedural evaluation. Eva Merkacheva and Andrei Babushkin in the near future will be summoned for interrogation, other investigation actions will be conducted with them aimed at clarification in particular of the motives which guided them in taking an interest in the circumstances of the criminal case and publishing them in the media.
If there is a statement from the accused about the use of force on them, then the investigation will carefully inspect their claims.
With this kind of backlash, it’s hard to see what the Investigative Committee thinks the Public Observation Commission is supposed to do when they find cases of torture — not report them? Russia has very strict rules about not divulging material from criminal investigations, however, which are invoked at random to threaten journalists and NGOs.
This latest incident is yet another indication of how the investigation of Nemtsov’s murder has made strange bedfellows — now some human rights activists are testifying to torture of Kadyrov’s men, helping Kadyrov’s case, even against a man who usually takes up the case of military men held in prison, against Putin’s top investigator.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Paul Goble has a summary today of interviews by popular blogger Oleg Kashin in which he asks point blank: where is the guarantee that Kadyrov’s men will not kill Putin or other officials? The chief suspect in the murder, Zaur Dadayev, is a trained and decorated soldier in the Chechen Interior Ministry troops controlled by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kashin highlights the radically different assessments that have come from Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the FSB, who essentially says “Dadayev is a murderer,” whereas Kadyrov is calling Dadayev “a real patriot and a brave warrior.” Even as Kadyrov’s troops are under suspicion, Putin gives Kadyrov a medal of honor.
“I surmise that the siloviki have been allowed to kill Nemtsov so as to create an excuse for the punishment of Kadyrov’s people,” Kashin concludes in an interview with Gordonua.com. While during life, Nemtsov was vilified on state TV as a “fifth columnist,” in death, Kashin notes, state TV suddenly recalled that he was a former first deputy prime minister, the leader of a parliamentary faction and a governor.
Kashin believes this is part of a war between the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Kadyrov — it wasn’t Aleksandr Bastrykin who announced the Chechen suspects, although it was his job as head of the Investigative Committee, but FSB chief Bortnikov.
Currently, Kashin’s web site is down. Yesterday he posted a stark poll asking people to chose — were they for the Kadyrovites or the FSB? Another blogger posted the results as of yesterday:
Translation: Judging from the site @KSHN, now Kadyrov is that very fifth column, fighting against the 86%.
The “86%” is a number said to be Putin’s approval rating in polls. Many people doubt it’s an accurate number, for one, because the approval is ostensibly based on backing of the Ukraine war, and yet polls on that subject show less approval, as we reported.
The Moscow Times has a summary of another interview in this vein from journalist Orkhan Dzhemal who has covered the war in Ukraine:
Some Russian media and social network commenters see an alternative
explanation for the Charlie Hebdo murder theory, suggesting the FSB is
seeking to link the Nemtsov killing to Chechnya’s leader Ramzan
Kadyrov — a man who has been bestowed with broad powers to rule
the Northern Caucasus republic in exchange for staunch loyalty to Putin.
Russian journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, the founder of a Muslim journalist association, said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy
liberal radio station this week that FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov had
supposedly sought to erode Kadyrov’s close ties with Putin when he
identified the former Chechen policeman, Dadayev, as one of the main
“Bortnikov dealt a blow against Kadyrov,” Dzhemal said. “We
understand only one thing, that now the FSB is pointing at [Kadyrov].
This what is happening is all pointing towards him.”
Dzhemal said the emergence of Kadyrov in the investigation signals a power struggle between two Kremlin beacons.
“There’s a battle going on. The Spasskaya [Tower] is fighting against
Borovitskaya,” he added, metaphorically referring to two of Red
Square’s landmarks, not far from where Nemtsov was gunned down.
So the implication here is that the “Charlie Hebdo” theory isn’t just a distraction or cover-up, but instrumental in claiming that Kadyrov’s soldiers are fanatics who are out of control — meaning he must be reined in. In January, Kadyrov staged a million-Muslim march in the central square of Grozny to protest the cartoons and support the Prophet Muhammad; this was widely seen as an event staged with Putin’s approval, to harness the energy of insult into Putin’s anti-Western cause. But what if it was going too far?
It also strikes us that the perfect way for the Kremlin to harness the anger of hundreds of Nemtsov’s colleagues and friends active in the still-influential independent media, who are inclined to see Putin behind the murder, is to re-direct it toward Kadyrov — a figure also criticized by liberals and cited in numerous independent news reports and human rights reports as responsible for a reign of terror in his republic that occasionally spills outside of it.
In an article for The Daily Beast, we called out the dubious nature of the “Charlie Hebdo” incitement theory because Nemtsov’s Facebook posts about the subject mainly focused on a Russian man arrested for picketing with a “Je Suis Charlie” poster in the “FSO Zone” — the zone the Federal Security Service (FSO) which guards the president and the Kremlin control. This was the very zone where Nemtsov himself was believed to be killed, although it is not clear where the boundaries are as they are classified information. Kadyrov himself did not notice Nemtsov’s blog posts at the time, and he even dismissed this as a theory when Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee first floated it, claiming that it was “Western intelligence agencies” instead. (see: Putin’s Usual Suspects: The Bullshit Chechen-Charlie Hebdo Connection)
We also noted the possibility that behind the distraction of a “Charlie Hebdo” motive could be an actual killer sent from Kadyrov’s army, which he has increasingly asserted, and which has been involved in fighting alongside Russian-backed separatists in Russia — this gives Putin plausible deniability.
In a major investigative piece yesterday titled “Patriots of Russia,” Novaya Gazeta explored this prospect.
Translation: Novaya Gazeta has published a bomb – on the opposition between the “Kadyrovites” and the federal silovoki [law-enforcement and security] over the murder of Nemtsov.
Without citing any sources, even anonymous ones, Novaya Gazeta says a report was given to Vladimir Putin on Kadyrov’s involvement, and also said there was a “hit list” maintained by the Chechen leadership with the names of Nemtsov, Alexey Venediktov (editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy), talk-show host Kseniya Sobchak, who was threatened at Nemtsov’s funeral, and exiled businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Novaya Gazeta also provided extensive background on the 46th Separate Operations Brigade, now called the Sever Battalion of the North Caucasus District of the Interior Ministry troops, noting that Dadayev came from this unit, as we have reported, as well as the sixth suspect in the case who died in a grenade explosion when police came to arrest (police say it was a suicide; relatives say he missed while trying to hit police).
They came up with a link between Sever and Dmitry Sablin, the head of the recently-created Anti-Maidan movement, whose activists have been harassing and even beating liberal demonstrators, and which recently staged a large march in Moscow. Sablin visited Sever a number of times and is shown here in civilian clothing next to those in military uniform:
Sablin, a senator in the Federation Council, is also head of Fighting Russia, a group of war veterans
Novaya also found a fighter named “Rustem” from this unit in a picture with Denis Pushilin, spokesman for the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.” He was killed recently outside of Debaltsevo.
Novaya then researched various connections between Kadyrov, this unit, headed by Aslambek Delimkhanov, the cousin of Russian senator Adam Delimkhanov, and another relative called “Uncle Ruslan,” whose last name was not given because Novaya said they had to maintain the premise of “presumption of innocence.” They also had to worry about libel lawsuits and another warning from the Russian censor.
But other bloggers were not shy about spelling out the name. Alexey Navalny tweeted:
Translation: translated into Russian, Novaya has written: the murder was organized by A. Delimkhanov and S. Geremeyev through Ruslan Geremeyev.
By refering to “translation,” Navalny is using a Russian expression which means “to make it explicit.”
The claim doesn’t have any evidence to support it, and is mainly an intellectual construction, although one may Russian liberals will find convincing.
Says Novaya (translation by The Interpreter):
What does Nemtsov have to do with this? Given that, for example, in the NTV show “Anatomy of Protest-3” which hasn’t been broadcast yet, Nemtsov was the main hero and is called the closest colleague of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who, as is known, was so sharp in his assessment of Charlie Hebdo that he provoked the public dissatisfaction of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who called him virtually his personal enemy and a blasphemer of Islam.
Yes, this motive shouldn’t be discounted, but only as a complicated game, the victim of which Boris Nemtsov became — the motive more likely serves to a large extent as a stimulator of the perpetrators or as a formal reason for reprisals.
All the rest is a calculated signal to the Kremlin: the “patriots of Russia” have become tired of waiting; enemies have to be destroyed; enough delay; if you don’t do this, someone will be found who will, but then you will depend on us and you must deal only with us; we are the force which protects your weakness, and this work — defending the Motherland from its enemies, which your intelligence services aren’t coping with, must be rightfully rewarded.
This scenario doesn’t explain how the killers could be focused on Nemtsov related to Charlie Hebdo when the NTV broadcast in fact didn’t air yet — unless the implication is that it was circulated in advance by the same intelligence services who use NTV to harass opposition critics.
There may be a simpler explanation — Putin is in collusion with Kadyrov , not pressured by him at all, and is happy to let him go on doing what he has been doing since 2004, when Putin installed him.
But now there is one of those “internal contradictions” or “dual powers” which traditionally in Russia history end in purges. If Bastrykin and Bortnikov are saying something different than Kadyrov, one or all of them will have to go — or there will be some other twist in the investigation to make it all “plausible.”
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Zaud Dadayev, chief suspect in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has essentially disavowed his previous confession to the murder of Nemtsov after a visit from the Public Monitoring Commission, Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) reports.
Two other jailed suspects, the Gubashev brothers, also withdrew their statement. An MK reporter went along on the prison visit to Lefortovo, the FSB’s prison known as an investigation and isolation facility (SIZO).
The three Chechen men told the monitors of beatings and torture which had allegedly been used on them after their arrest and transport to prison
MK, which generally hews to a pro-government line, added that “the use of force in transporting especially dangerous suspects is considered permissible” and “invocation of unlawful methods of coercion is very widespread among criminals.”
Torture is poorly defined under Russian law and rarely punished, and cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners is rampant in the prison system, as can be seen from testimonies from former prisoners and the conclusions of the UN Committee Against Torture in reviewing Russia’s compliance with the international Convention Against Torture.
When the monitors came to visit, Shagid Gubashev said that while he was now being treated humanely, he was tortured earlier, as was his brother, and wanted to given an account of his arrest.
At first, the Lefortovo warden didn’t want to allow Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights who took part in the monitoring visit, to hear the Chechen prisoners’ stories, but after a long argument, he was finally allowed to talk to Shagid:
Shagid: My brother and I were in Chechnya when we were called and told that in Ingushetia, our third cousin Zaur Dadayev was detained. So we immediately headed there to find out what was doing on. If we were accomplices to any crime, would we have gone there? Think for yourself, that’s not logical. As soon as we arrived in Malgobek, we were detained. It was on the night of March 6-7. We were blindfolded, and our heads were put in sacks. No one explained anything.
Commission: Were you given the right to a phone call?
Shagid: What are you saying?! I heard how they were heavily beating my brother and what they were doing to him. Then we were taken somewhere not far away (I couldn’t see the road). There was an office there, and we were beaten again.
Commission: Who beat you?
Shagid: They didn’t introduce themselves. But at first I realized that these were officers of the narcotics squad. They called each other Mikhalych and Petrovich.
Commission: Do you use drugs?
Shagid: No. Then they demanded that I tell them that we had killed Nemtsov. Then we were taken somewhere else. I realized that we were already on a plane, but the entire time I was in a sack. It was removed only in Moscow.
Commission: Did they give you a lawyer?
Shagid: I saw him for the first time at the court house. He’s the one the investigator provided. But why do I need a lawyer? I have nothing to do with this.
Commission: Do you need anything? Perhaps some items for religious rituals?
Shagid: No, nothing. If necessary, I will lay down my jacket and will pray. I feel safe here. But please try to find out why we were beaten and why we are in detention. We aren’t guilty.
The monitors then visited the second jail cell where Anzor Gubashev was held and saw that he had scratches, bruises and cuts on his wrists and legs.
Commission: Where did you get those bruises?
Anzor: They were there. Earlier.
Commission: Did they beat you?
Anzor: I don’t have any complaints.
Commission: Were the bruises recorded when you were booked into the detention center?
Commission: Did you receive a copy of the report?
Anzor: No. Can you?
Commission: We asked the detention center employees to give us a copy of the document. Anzor repeated that he was happy with everything in Lefortovo, and he didn’t want to talk about what had happened before he was brought to the prison. We asked him what religious books he reads. He says he reads little. He has an 11th grade education.
In the third cell was Zaur Dadayev. The first thing he did was show the visitors his body.
Zaur: Here are the marks from the hand cuffs, and this is from the shackles on the legs and the chains.
Commission: Are you sure?
Zaur: I was kept two days like this (shows how he was chained–author) and with a bag on my head. I kept it. It’s in my personal belongings, it’s yellow, it was made of fabric (the prison employees did not find the bag in order to show us–Author). The kept shouting, “Did you kill Nemtsov?” I answered that I had not. At the moment I was detained, I was with an acquaintance, with my former subordinate Ruslan Yusupov. And he said that if I confess, they will let him go. I agreed. I thought I will save him, and they will bring me to Moscow alive. Otherwise, what would happen to me would be what happened to Shavanov. He supposedly blew himself up with a grenade.
Commission: How do you know?
Zaur: There is a radio here. I listen to it. They say terrible things about us from morning til night. So I thought they will bring me to Moscow, and here I will say the truth in court. That I am not guilty. But the judge didn’t let me speak.
Commission: You have to write a petition to the court. Study the Code of Criminal Procedures (UPK).
Zaur: For 11 years, I have fought criminals, I have defended the interests of Russia, and I am not allowed to speak because I didn’t manage to study some UPK? Where’s the justice? Why don’t they put behind bars the people who are against Russia, why don’t they suspect them, and not me? What should I do with the medals I received? I don’t fear anything now. I have been treated humanely in Lefortovo, respectfully. I am grateful to them for that. For now I feel safe. But who will prove my non-involvement? By the way, Ali Matiyev was also with me. He can vouch for this. Where is he?
Commission: We don’t know anything about the investigation, that’s not within our competency. Ask your lawyers. To be sure, you rejected the one your parents chose for you.
Zaur: Who refused? I’m hearing about this for the first time. I asked my relatives to find me lawyers, but so far there’s been silence. On February 28, an order was given to dismiss me, and within a week, I turned from a hero into a dangerous criminal.
This account differs from the statement of an official who said Dadayev submitted his resignation on January 27 and took leave for 30 days, at the end of which his resignation would go into effect.
The murder investigation has already admitted that while there is forensic evidence to trace Dadayev to the getaway car, they have not tied him to the shooting because the gun has not been found.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick