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.
Anna Duritskaya, the Ukrainian companion of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was with him on the night of his murder is not being allowed to return to Ukraine, and is being held by Russian security in an apartment against her will.
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:
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.
Translation: Ganna Durytska (Anna Duritskaya) has just flown to Kiev. Ukrainian diplomats in Moscow have provided our citizen all the necessary assistance in returning home.
Earlier, Duritskaya’s lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, told Moskovsky Komsomolets that she had been held in a private apartment and kept under surveillance round the clock, and that investigators had interrogated her until 3:30 am.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
International Memorial Society, the leading human rights group in Russia, released a statement on the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
They join others in the Russian intelligentsia who believe that Russian state TV was a big factor in creating a climate of incitement to kill opposition figures. Many of the participants in the march in memory of Nemtsov yesterday carried signs saying “Propaganda Kills,” or this sign:
The Interpreter has translated the statement:
In recent years and months, the government of Russia and the mass media that serves it has created an atmosphere of hatred toward any dissent. State propaganda not only “highlights,” like a projector, the target for killers, but it creates in them a sense of impunity. Opposition activists and simply independent civic and political activists are called hostile agents, essentially declaring them as a “permissible target.” Thus, on March 1, NTV announced the broadcast of another show in its series “Anatomy of Protest,” where Boris Nemtsov was given the role of one of the main “enemies.”
But now it’s not a question limited just to propaganda: with the help of the government, Anti-Maidan has been created — ranks of storm-troopers openly proclaiming as their aim the forceful suppression, outside the law, of the opposition. These forces are closely associated with the “militia” fighting in eastern Ukraine, from where people return from Russia with the experience of direct armed violence with impunity.
Today, we still don’t know the name of the executors, organizers and contractors of the crime. But we can definitely state: it is the Russian goverment that has created all the prerequisites for the murder of Boris Nemtsov.
Russian human rights advocates have been pretty pessimistic that the killers will be found — or if some suspects are captured, they will be the right ones.
Veteran human rights movement leader Ludmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group visited the scene where Nemtsov was killed to lay flowers, polit.ru reported, citing Interfax:
I would be very happy if they find the killer, but to my recollection there is not a single political murder where they found the contractor.
Not for the first time, RIA Novosti, which covered the same event, but selected a different quotation:
This is a terrible political murder…terrible that it is happening at such a time. For me, he was a very good and honest person, true to his convictions, I have known him many years.
Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that the masterminds are rarely found in these cases:
We would have to agree, thinking of all the political murders since the assassination of ORT (Channel 1) chief Vladimir Listyev 20 years ago on March 1, 1995, which seemed to usher in the modern era of such deaths since the Stalin era, the masterminds are rarely if ever found. Listyev’s murder paved the way for Konstantin Ernst to take over, who today heads what is now called TV1. Under Ernst, the “toddler crucifixion” story and other outrageous propaganda shows have been broadcast, including the vilification of the opposition as “fifth columnists.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
REN TV, a private TV channel which generally hews to a pro-Kremlin line, has reported that after several false starts, police have found the car in which the killers of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov sped away.
On February 28, REN TV published footage from a video surveillance camera showing what they said was the killers’ getaway car, but without further commentary. The video was evidently taken from a different camera than the weather camera which shows Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge where Nemtsov was killed.
Now today March 2, REN TV has published more information based on sources inside the investigation.
Investigators told REN TV that based on the weather video tape, they were looking for a Ford or KIA, but then found a Ukrainian knock-off of the Chevrolet Lanos — a ZAZ Chance which they believed matched the car at the scene of the crime. The owners were discovered to live in Moscow Region. A woman was found and interrogated, and she said she had sold the automobile long ago.
From there, a source in the investigation told REN TV, “We managed to establish a certain circle of persons and they are now being searched for.” The source added that the investigation’s information “confirmed the theory that the murder of Nemtsov was prepared by persons from the Caucasian regions of Russia.”
Investigators have gone over the car thoroughly and have found hairs that could only have been left by the killer, they sais. “DNA analysis can be done even if the bandits are destroyed when detained,” said the source.
REN TV said “specialists will study practically every mechanism and bolt in the car. Possibly they will thus manage to learn where the car was repaired recently, which will help them follow the trail of the killers.”
Yesterday March 2, LifeNews, a TV channel close to intelligence and police, reported that the killers of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov sped away in a different car, a silver VAZ-21102.
This was after several false alarms where police said they had found a white car, but then it turned out to be the wrong one. A source in law-enforcement told LifeNews (translation by The Interpreter):
“The killer fled in a VAZ-21102 bright-grey metal-colored car made in 2002. All the posts and police departments of Moscow were alerted to look for the car. There was information that it could have gone beyond the bounds of the Moscow Ring Road.”
Police said the license plate was registered in Northern Ossetia, but the car was taken off the registry in 2011. The former owner, who lives outside of Vladikavkaz, was identified. Then according to a later LifeNews report March 1, police caught up with the driver outside of Zelenograd and determined that “most likely” he was unrelated to the murder.
LifeNews hasn’t commented on REN TV’s report.
While it’s always possible that different pro-government TV stations talk to different sources in law-enforcement, it’s also possible that authorities are throwing out a lot of stories about different cars, just as they have thrown out a lot of stories about possible perpetrators of the murder, to confuse the public.
One thing seems clear from these stories — the investigation’s efforts so far are turning up very predictable clues related to Ukraine and to the usual scapegoat for crimes in Russia, the Caucasus.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As we reported, footage released from the weather camera of TV Tsentr, a station owned by the city of Moscow, shows the likely perpetrators of the murder who make a getaway soon after shooting opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But the view of the actual assassination is blocked by a city utility vehicle.
In the video, below, Nemtsov and Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya can be seen walking down the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge while the utility vehicle, possibly a street sweeper, slowly approaches from behind. When the truck is between Nemtsov and the camera, a figure can be seen running out from behind the truck and getting into a getaway car. When the utility truck advances further, Nemtsov is lying on the ground, shot.
One theory is that the assassin was hiding in a nearby stairwell when Nemtsov approached. The shooter then killed Nemtsov while the truck blocked the camera (which may or may not be a coincidence) and the shooter then ran away. Pavel Pryannikov, a friend of Nemtsov’s and well-known blogger in Moscow, advanced this theory, as did the New York Times. Pryannikov suggested that the killer “work was high-quality – the snow-cleaning machine blocked him from the camera.” The Russianstate-operated propaganda network RT agrees, writing “low-resolution video hints that the killer may have been waiting for Nemtsov at the bridge.”
There is, however, one problem with this theory based on the video alone — no other person besides Nemtsov and his companion Duritskaya (dressed in the white coat) are visible in the video before Nemtsov was shot. And while Nemtsov was indeed killed close to the stairwell in question, the stairwell is also visible in the video.
This is the stairwell in question, visible here on Google maps:
But Nemtsov was actually killed much closer to the first lamp post to the right of the stairwell, and the stairwell is actually visible the entire time in the video of the assassination, but the assassin appears to be never visible.
The Ukraine at War blog has highlighted the stairwell in this video, a zoomed in version of the original which is posted above. As you can see, while two other people can be seen walking up the stairs (they appear to be long gone when Nemtsov is killed) no one is seen walking up the stairs right before he was killed. In fact, there is no person in the video who looks like they could have killed Nemtsov — that is, until the person runs from behind the truck and gets into a getaway car.
There are other problems with the theory that the killer walked up the stairs. Anna Duritskaya, Nemtsov’s companion, has said that she never saw the killer. As we pointed out earlier, she may have been coerced, but if she is telling the truth it is hard to believe that she would have failed to notice the assassin run up the stairs which were directly in front of them and shoot Nemtsov four times.
Another theory quickly emerged — that the killer got out of the utility truck, killed Nemtsov, and then jumped in the getaway car. This would explain why the killer was not visible before the truck blocked the view of Nemtsov’s murder. However, Duritskaya says that right after Nemtsov was shot she ran to the man in the snowplow and he helped her call police. Would she run to someone whom she believed was working with the assassin?
There is, however, an alternate theory — that the killer may have been riding on the back of the snow removal vehicle. It’s conceivable that the person, likely holding on to the handholds on the right side of the vehicle, jumped off the vehicle right before, or perhaps even during the firing of the shots that hit Nemtsov. The driver of the vehicle may or may not have even known that the killer was riding on the back, and it’s possible that Duritskaya, who was on Nemtsov’s left, may have been looking away from the truck and never noticed the assassin, who may have run into the street before she had a chance to see him.
Ukraine at War also points out that at one point before the assassination, a figure is visible walking behind Nemtsov, but as the snow removal vehicle drives past the figure is no longer visible.
The video quality is low, and the camera is positioned some distance from the scene of the murder, but right now the video does suggest one possible theory — that the killer was riding on the back of the vehicle before killing Nemtsov and escaping into a getaway car. While it is possible that the shooter was hiding somewhere on the bridge, no other person is visible in this video in the area where Nemtsov was killed prior to the assassination.
As we point out and analyse below, there were many security cameras in the area of the shooting, any one of which could easily clarify what happened Friday night. And this killing happened on the doorstep of the Kremlin, making the government’s lack of statements about potential leads and it’s denial of knowledge of the incident both curious and suspicious.
— James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As we reported, the business daily Kommersant has reported official sources who claimed that surveillance cameras trained on the site of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov weren’t working; the city of Moscow has said their cameras were in fact working at the scene but haven’t released videotapes; and independent news site Novaya Gazeta and bloggers have weighed in expressing doubts about there being “no cameras” or cameras that weren’t working.
Kommersant has tried to reconstruct the events of the night of the murder based not only on the one available video tape, but law-enforcement sources and the account given to TV Rain by Anna Duritskaya, the Ukrainian woman who was with Nemtsov when he was murdered, which we have translated here.
Duritskaya was unable to name the model of the car, but police announced they were looking for a white-colored Ford, Kia Rio and VAZ-2110 which investigators evidently discovered from the tapes. But the owners of the cars were later said to be unrelated to the murder.
Then on Saturday night, February 28, police investigated a Lada Priora registered in Ingushetia found near the Smolenskaya metro station. But two residents of Ingushetia who were tied to the Lada were also found to be unrelated to the murder. Kommersant then found out that the traffic police were said to be checking mainly red-colored cars — as if white was irrelevant.
TV Centr’s weather camera shows that the murder took place at 23:31. This station is owned by the city of Moscow, and the TV station uploaded the footage soon after the murder. Kommersant is among other analysts such as Pavel Pryannikov who say the footage shows that the murder waited for his victim on the side stairs leading up to the bridge and then apparently at the signal of some accomplices, quickly ran up the stairs to the pedestrian walk and opened fire on Nemtsov, killing him with 4 of 6 bullets.
The gun was not left at the scene — as is often the case in Russian murders — but the casings from the bullets left investigators puzzled. They say all the bullets were 9 mm, but they were manufactured at different times and by different factories. Four bullets were from the Yuryuzan Mechanics Factory in Chelyabisnk and made in 1986, and another two bullets were from the Tula Ammunition Factory made in 1992. Kommersant added that ammunition can be kept in good condition for an unlimited time under certain conditions, which they believe would be difficult to maintain in the black market.
According to one law-enforcement source, the different origins of the bullets could be explained by the fact that the killers were “scrounging them from all their pockets,” i.e. that the killers had a limited access to ammunition, which is usually sold in packets of 50 or boxes of 1,000, and were using odds and ends.
The exact type of weapon used is not known, and Kommersant said it could be a Makarov or an Izh, and may have been thrown in the Moscow River.
Kommersant also reports that their sources say they have found similarities between the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov; both were murdered on specific dates, which they identified as Putin’s birthday on October 7 for Politkovskaya, and for Nemtsov, as before the March 1 opposition march. (They didn’t mention the date of the Reichstag fire or Special Operations Forces Day, also on February 27). The sources also said that both victims were followed for a long period before the appropriate time and place was found to attack them. They also believe that the backdrop of the Kremlin may have been chosen deliberately.
In the case of Politkovskaya, investigators immediately characterized the murder as related to the victim’s profession, i.e. journalism. They have not done that with Nemtsov, says Kommersant, but they did immediately concede that it was a contract murder, i.e. planned and executed professionally.
Kommersant cites Vladimir Markin of the Investigative Committee regarding a “Ukrainian footprint” in the murder. He and other top officials claimed the murderer could have been motivated by the desire to “make a sacrificial victim” of Nemtsov ostensibly to further the Ukrainian nationalist or Russian opposition cause, or to “destabilize Russia.” The Russian independent press has not found this plausible, and Kommersant probed further.
Markin then later said “among both conflicting sides there are very radical personages not subordinate to any authorities.” That could be a hint that the murderer could be a radical Russian ultranationalist. Kommersant speculates that this could mean a Russian fighter who volunteered in Ukraine and then returned to Russia. Last year, intoxicated Russian fighters returning from the Donbass shot and killed traffic policemen in a suburb of Moscow, sparking fears that such fighters might bring the war home.
Aleksandr Boroday, former head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” told Kommersant that he found this theory to be “nonsense and stupidity.” “There was no point in the patriots killing Mr. Nemtsov, who was a political figure of the 1990s, and not now,” he said.
Dmitry Demushkin, head of the nationalist group called Russkiye (Russians), also said his group was not involved in the murder. Unlike other famous opposition politicians, lawyers and journalists, Nemtsov wasn’t in the “hit lists” of BORN (Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists) whose members are now on trial for other murders. Aleksey Pershin, lawyer for Nikita Tikhonov, a BORN member sentenced to life imprisonment told Kommersant that Nemtsov “was simply not interesting to nationalists as a political figure.” Nevertheless, he “did not rule out” that radical BORN followers could be motivated to kill Nemtsov, especially if they fought in the Donbass and perceived Nemtsov was someone supporting their enemies.
All of these disavowals need to be taken with a grain of salt, as naturally any Russian nationalist group is going to want to avoid any police scrutiny now over this murder. The fact is that at the Anti-Maidan march, activists carried posters of Nemtsov labelled “Organizer of Maidan” — as if he were capable of repeating the Kiev Maidan in Moscow.
Detectives told Kommersant that they “can’t rule out” that the murderer could be a radical fighting on the Ukrainian side, and mentioned Right Sector, which is the favorite target of Russian propaganda. Already one news site has published information claiming Yarosh was involved in the murder through another man who was later found to have committed suicide on February 28 — although this story couldn’t be confirmed. They also said they were investigating the Islamist angle, given that Nemtsov had criticized Islamist terrorists in a blog post for Ekho Moskvy (translation by The Interpreter):
“Now we are witnesses of a medieval Islamic inquisition. The centuries will pass, Islam will mature, and terrorism will recede into the past. But we also can’t just do nothing.”
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov immediately deflected this line of inquiry by claiming that only Western intelligence had the motivation to kill Nemtsov.
Investigators are also looking at a dispute Nemtsov had in 2013 in the Yaroslavl Regional Duma, where he was a deputy, with vice governor Aleksandr Senin, over Nemtsov’s allegations about corruption in the region’s purchase of some health equipment for hospitals. The prosecutor dropped the inquiry, but due to Nemtsov’s pushing the case, eventually Senin was removed from his post, and threatened to take Nemtsov to court. However, court records show that he never followed up.
The Interior Ministry has offered a reward of 3 million rubles ($48,281) for information leading to the apprehension of the murderer.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Anyone watching Russia closely over the last year is familiar with the dramatic escalation of provocations and unannounced drills on behalf of Russia’s military. Russia has now regularly tested the borders of European airspace, on one occasion flying nuclear-capable bombers through the English channel and on another reportedly sailing a submarine into foreign oceans.
Today, as international interest in Russia is elevated once again, this time due to the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik has been reporting new drills, this time the testing of the S-400 advanced anti-aircraft missile in the Volga region:
RFE/RL also reports that Russia’s Defense Minister has announced that the Russian military will continue, and expand, patrols using strategic bombers:
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on March 2, “Such flights are performed regularly, and we are not planning to abandon this practice.”
Shoigu added that Russia will “explore new combat patrolling areas in the future” for its strategic bombers, taking into account “international cooperation with our allies in other regions of the world.”
He also said Russia will modernize 13 strategic — or long-range — aircraft this year.
— James Miller
The independent Russian media and bloggers have been intently focusing on the issue of what might or might not be captured from surveillance cameras in the area where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed on the night of February 27, the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge not far from the Kremlin’s walls.
As we reported, footage released from the weather camera of TV Tsentr, a station owned by the city of Moscow, shows the likely perpetrators of the murder who make a getaway soon after shooting Nemtsov. But the view of the actual assassination is blocked by a city cleaning vehicle and the camera is far enough away that no details can be gleaned.
According to sources of the business daily Kommersant, which has been attempting to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, the “recordings from the surveillance cameras either are not very clear or missing altogether since they were turned off for repairs.”
But Yelena Novikova, spokeswoman for Moscow’s information technology department which oversees surveillance cameras said “all cameras belong to the city” were operating correctly, Mashable reported, citing a RIA Novosti report.
The footage from those cameras have not been released.
She noted that federal authorities also have surveillance cameras near the Kremlin that are “not under her organization’s control.”
The Bolshoi Moskovoretsky Bridge where Nemtsov was murdered is believed to be within the zone of protection of the Federal Protection Service (FS0) which is assigned to protect the president at his home and office, which includes the whole Kremlin complex.
“The video cameras are aimed at the Kremlin and provide a view of the internal gounds. Moskvoretsky Bridge is not within the zone of responsibility of the Federal Protection Service. There are no FSO cameras there.”
There are indeed cameras on the lamp posts on the bridge as Russian bloggers have already indicated with a picture from the scene, showing the holiday lights and flowers heaped at the murder scene. If they don’t belong to FSO, they would belong to the city of Moscow.
Translation: Well, likely everybody saw this photo. Faces could be made out from these cameras. But they’re showing us [footage] from cameras from outer space.
The marks on the photo say “five cameras on the post” on the left and “two cameras” on the right.
The problem is that we can’t be sure FSO is telling the truth; the information about what exactly included in this zone is likely classified.
According to a Novaya Gazeta report today March 2, Mitya Aleshkovsky, a blogger and host of a show on Ekho Moskvy, wrote on his Facebook page:
Of course the FSO is lying when it is reporting that not a single video camera captured the moment of the murder, i.e. they are aimed at the Kremlin. Here is a shot I especially made from the bridge on the night of the murder of Nemtsov. And I asked other photographers to make the same one. All four shots are the same picture, just at different close-ups. The camera on the Beklemishevskaya Tower was aimed EXACTLY at the murder site. So the FSO is lying here.
Perhaps mindful of how much pressure Ekho Moskvy is under now, he added that this was his personal assessment.
It seems likely that authorities will default to stock excuses like “it was under repairs” or “it wasn’t ours” while they wait for the investigation to access videotapes that no doubt do really exist in this highly secure area near the Kremlin.
Meanwhile the independent press and such public pressure as exists will demand to see these tapes — and if and when they are shown, it will be uncertain whether they have been tampered with.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Estonia, NATO’s smallest member state and a country which borders Russia, has just held elections. Despite fears among the current government that the pro-Russian Centre Party could win, the party that is currently in power has maintained control. BBC reports:
[Prime Minister Taavi Roivas’s Reform Party] party claimed 27.7% with most of the votes counted, down from 28.6% at the last parliamentary elections in 2011.
The pro-Russian Centre Party took 24.8% of the votes, winning one more seat to take them to 27 in total.
The Social Democrats, who have been Reform’s coalition partner, now hold 15 seats after losing four while the IRL party lost nine seats to take them to 14.
The Centre Party has advocated building close ties with Moscow and putting more distance between Estonia and NATO, whereas the Social Democratic Party, to which current Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is a member, and the Reform Party have advocated the opposite, and have been vocal critics of Mocow’s meddling in its neighbors affairs in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
While the Centre Party did pick up an additional seat, they are still outnumbered in parliament and did not make as many gains as some in the pro-NATO coalition had feared.
— James Miller
The richest Russian in the Forbes list is now Vladimir Potanin, president of Interros, who is worth $14.8 billion. Potanin is a close friend of President Vladimimr Putin. He ranks as 60th richest in the world. Potanin has done very well in this year of sanctions and upheavals — his worth increased from $12.6 last year, when he was ranked 8th in a list of the 200 wealthiest Russians.
The second richest Russian on Forbes’ list this year is Mikhail Fridman, head of the supervisory board of Alfa-Group, whose worth is $14.7 billion, placing him at no. 68 on the world list.
The third wealthiest is Alisher Usmanov, majority shareholder of USM Holdings, whose worth is now at $14.5 billion, putting him at no. 71 on the world list. Usmanov has fallen from the number-one spot for the wealthiest Russian, which he held from 2011-2014.
Next and fourth wealthiest comes Viktor Vekselberg at $14.2 billion and no. 73 on the world list.
He is followed by Aleksei Mordashov, general director of Severstal at $13 billion; Vagit Alekperov of Lukoil at $12.2 billion; Leonid Mikhelson of Novatek at $11.7 billion and Vladimir Lisin, owner of NLMK, at $11.6 billion.
Gennady Timcheko, chief shareholder at Volga Resources Group, is worth $10.7 billion, and Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the Oneksim group, is worth $9.9. billion.
In December 2014, CNN reported that Putin’s cronies had lost a lot due to the ruble collapse.
Mikhelson saw his portfolio shrink by an estimated $8.7 billion (nearly 50%); Lisin lost $7 billion (nearly 50%) Usmanov lost $6.4 billion; and Alekperov lost $4.9 billion or about 40$ of his portfolio.
Usmanov controls 48% of Metalloinvest and has a share in Twitter and Airbnb and co-owns the English soccer team Arsenal.
Lukoil was the first to be sanctioned by the US government for Russia’s forcible annexation of the Crimea last year. Timchenko was also included on the sanctions list, but Vekselberg and the others among Forbes’ wealthiest Russians have not been.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Alexei Goncharenko, a Ukrainian MP who was arrested at the memorial march for assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Sunday, has been released from custody.
In the early hours of this morning (1:43 Moscow time), Goncharenko wrote on his Facebook page that he had been released and was now in the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow.
He thanked supporters and the Ukrainian president, without whom, Goncharenko writes, “everything would have gone completely differently.”
“I have one regret – because of those bastards, I couldn’t lay flowers on the site of Boris’ murder.”
While released from custody, the MP was due to attend court today at 15:00 Moscow time (12:00 GMT).
Despite being linked by Russian investigators to the May 2, 2014 violence in Odessa, Goncharenko told journalists that he had been accused of “failure to obey a police officer,” a claim he denied.
UNIAN reports (transliterating the MP’s name as “Honcharenko”):
Answering a question whether he was questioned about riots in Odesa, Ukraine, in May 2014, Honcharenko said: “One of them told me that they wanted to check my involvement in the events of May 2 in Odesa. No more questions [about the riots] followed.”
“When they were dragging me to the police station, a certain group of ‘activists’ were chasing us, shouting: ‘This is the strangler of Odesa,'” Honcharenko said.
However, in a Facebook post published at 12:37 Moscow time, Goncharenko wrote that the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) had abandoned their claim on him and that he would not be facing the court. His lawyer, Mark Feygin, who is also defending Nadezhda Savchenko, confirmed the abandonment of the case.
We do not know if Goncharenko intends to return to Ukraine immediately or remain in Moscow.
The MVD, in an attempt to prevent accusations of ill-treatment of Goncharenko, published a video of him being held in a cell and subsequently being returned his possessions before being released.
But Goncharenko said that he had in fact been beaten by police officers and denied both a lawyer and a doctor. He said that he intended to take the matter to court.
The MVD called Goncharenko’s claims of mistreatment “absurd” and claimed that the MP had never made any such requests during his detention.
Goncharenko told Gazeta.ru that the officers had tried to intimidate him and, rather suspiciously, looked for evidence that he had recently fired a gun. Perhaps this suggests an attempt to link him to Nemtsov’s murder?
The Interpreter translates:
“All this time they led me from one office to another, saying that I want to bring Maidan to Moscow, searching for a callous on my index finger from a trigger, questioning me about what I did on the Maidan a year ago.”
Eventually, Goncharenko was allowed a visit from a Ukrainian consul and Mark Feygin. Feygin said that there were no grounds for Goncharenko to be detained. Furthermore, as an MP and member of the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe (PACE), Goncharenko held diplomatic status. Goncharenko was subsequently allowed to leave the police station.
— Pierre Vaux
Translation: Alexey Navalny was not released to attend the wake of Nemtsov. Jankauskas was let out, but not Navalny.
Translation: Konstantin Jankauskas will be released for the wake of Boris Nemtsov.
Jankauskas, a supporter of Navalny and a deputy of the Zyuzino District legislature has been placed under house arrest pending trial on charges of fraud related to Navalny’s campaign financing.
TV Rain has broadcast an exclusive interview with Anna Duritskaya (Durytska), the woman who was with opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on the night of February 27 when he was murdered.
TV Rain has a partial video of the interview, which is behind a paywall. Lenta.ru and other Russian media have covered the story.
According to Duritskaya, she met Nemtsov at about 10 pm at the Bosco Cafe in the GUM shopping plaza on Red Square. Duritskaya, 23, a Russian speaker from Kiev, had a relationship with Nemtsov for 3-4 years before his death.
She said they took a walk towards his home, crossing Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge. Duritskaya told TV Rain:
After dinner, we headed to his house. Nothing suspicious was happening.
When I turned around, I saw a light-colored car.
She told TV rain that she did not notice anyone following them from the restaurant.
When asked by the TV Rain host what happened on the bridge, Duritskaya, who seemed still to be in shock during the interview, replied haltingly:
On the bridge…the murder occurred…of Boris.
Asked where the killers came from, she replied:
I don’t know. I didn’t see them…it happened behind my back.
Lenta.ru reported that Duritskaya then turned for help to the driver of a snowplow, which stopped nearby.
I asked for help from the driver of the snowplow, so he would call the police. He told me the telephone number and I approached the crime scene.
This answer opens up a number of questions.
First, Duritskaya, understandably in shock, is speaking in stilted sentences that sound like phrases from the lexicon of interrogators (“I approached the crime scene”) more than natural speech.
Second, as we reported earlier, after a videotape of the murder was broadcast, it appeared as if the snowplow stopped and opportunistically blocked the view of the murderer. There has even been speculation that the person seeming to jump off the snowplow might have been the perpetrator.
But was it also possible that the driver stopped because he saw a murder in progress? And that the blocking of the view by his truck was accidental?
The other question is why the driver wouldn’t instantly call the police himself, rather than giving the number to a distraught person standing next to a dead body. As in the US, there is an all-purpose emergency number to dial in Moscow, 102 for police or 103 for an ambulance. It might have been that Duritskaya, from Kiev, did not know this number, which is why she asked for it.
Yet as 24today.net has pointed out, now there’s a discrepancy in the story. LifeNews reported that the snowplow driver said he himself called the police.
Duritskaya said the police took 10 minutes to arrive.
She said she was interrogated all night until morning, and no lawyer was with her. She said the police inspected all her belongings and copied information from telephones.
She said she didn’t understand why she continued to be held in Russia:
They will not let me leave for the airport but I have the total right to leave Russia. I can’t go anywhere, most likely I will not go to the funeral.
She also told the TV Rain interviewer that she did not think jealousy of a third party could be a reason for the murder.
Meanwhile, the head of consular affairs for the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow has said Duritskaya is “missing,” uatoday.tv reported. She has been classified as a witness in the murder case and formally entitled to return to Ukraine, yet she appears to be held now against her will in a private apartment without being granted consular assistance, says Ukrainian MP Ostap Semerak.
The funeral of Boris Nemtsov will take place at the Sakharov Center on Wednesday, March 5.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick