Russia Update: New Eyewitness Details Appear in Nemtsov Investigation; Bloggers Skeptical

March 27, 2015
"Viktor M.," a witness who appeared on LifeNews on February 28, 2015 to describe the scene of the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Later, Kommersant reported a similar account from a witness whose name was given as "Yevgeny."

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.

With the re-emergence of a witness on the bridge, the story of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is changing once again.


Special features:

Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo: ‘It is Seen as Correct to Initiate Annexation of Eastern Regions of Ukraine to Russia’

See also our Russia This Week stories:

Can We Be Satisfied With the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?

All The Strange Things Happening in Moscow
Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)
Ultranationalists Angry over ‘Capitulation’ of Minsk Agreement

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Russian Bloggers Skeptical of Eyewitness Testimony of Nemtsov’s Murder Because It Doesn’t Match Video

Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, Andrei Zhidenkov, a blogger, and other commenters on Twitter are skeptical of the testimony of “Yevgeny,” published by Kommersant today, who claims to be an eye witness of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

As we noted earlier today, Yevgeny’s testimony — which seems to be the same testimony as “Viktor M.” who appeared on LifeNews on February 28 — does not seem to line up with the TV Tsentr video tape, which many have come to see as the only independent source on what happened on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge on the night of February 27. TV Tsentr, the Moscow municipal television station, owns the weather camera facing on to the bridge and uploaded the tape soon after the murder.

The Interpreter has translated the discussion:

Translation: Hmm, there was no such person on the TVTs camera walking behind Nemtsov (now the witness Yevgeny), nor the two women who came up immediately…What’s fake?
Translation: He was there, but for a large part of the time he was moving behind the public utility vehicle, he is visible at the start of the bridge.
Translation: Where did you get that? Look at the tape again. He isn’t there at the beginning or the end.
Translation: According to the clock on TVTs, a person is visible before the vehicle from 23:30:31 to 23:30:34. Then the vehicle overtakes him.
“@j7ht: @aavst According to the clock on TVTs, a person is visible before the
vehicle from 23:30:31 to 23:30:34. Then the vehicle overtakes him.” Distance from Boris?

Translation: I have taken apart a section of the video with the witness frame by frame (TVTs)

Earlier this month, the blogger @DaveyPetros of Ukraine@War published two slowed and annotated versions of the TV Tsentr video tape as follows:

Zhidenkov then came to the same conclusion as Andrei Illarionov, who thought the discrepancy between the video and the testimony could mean that Yevgeny in fact was the killer himself.
Translation: Aleksey, in general I have held the opinion that this is the murderer…
Translation: But I’m not disputing that the events recorded on the video diverge from the testimonies, I would be surprised if it were the opposite.
Translation: My opinion is that the testimonies are fake since the appearance of the TVTs tape was not a controlled leak but somebody’s own initiative.

Translation: On the whole, I very much like the theory of [writer Yuliya] Latynina that the public utility vehicle was the tail.

By that they mean that those who were following Nemtsov used the street-cleaner to do so.

Translation: It’s less than 2 light poles. 35-39 meters.
Translation: well I measured it on Yandex maps but it’s about that, yes.

Translation: No. It’s 25 meters between the poles. Here in the red circle is the silhouette of the murderer.

Translation: Here it’s more visible – in a yellow circle.
Translation: Yes, that’s him, but the problem is that it’s not clear where he went after the murder – 2nd theory – he went down the stairs or…
Translation: The shot was at 23:31:08 or 23:31:09
Translation: The cameras recorded everything. You can’t order cameras how to record and what. You can manipulate people’s testimonies.

Translation: And at the moment of the shot the murderer is visible to the left of the [street-cleaning] machine.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Witness of Murder of Boris Nemtsov Claims Perpetrator He Saw Does Not Match Zaur Dadayev

A witness who was on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge on the night of February 27 when opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed has described a perpetrator who does not look like Zaur Dadayev,  a former officer of the Chechen Interior Ministry troops who is the main suspect in the case, Kommersant reported today, March 27.

With this new twist, the story of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is changing once again.

Kommersant says the witness is “Yevgeny, 27, a manager in a company” and notes that investigators are not giving out his name.

This appears to be the exact same witness called “Viktor M.” in an “Anti-System” t-shirt interviewed by LifeNews back on February 28. In the original videotape, his voice has been distorted and his face blurred to disguise his identity. This version uploaded to YouTube removes the distortion.

According to Kommersant‘s source close to the investigation, the eye-witness Yevgeny said he was walking along the pedestrian lane on the bridge listening to heavy rock music through headphones and looking at his smart phone at the time of the murder. He didn’t see the shooting but then saw Nemtsov, already fallen to the ground, with his companion, Anna Duritskaya by his side, and a man jumping over the curb that separates the sidewalk from the street on the bridge.

Yevgeny said he saw the fleeing man from the back. He was of medium height, slender build and with dark, possibly wavy hair about 4 centimeters in length. He said the man was not wearing a jacket despite the cold and wind. He said he had on blue jeans that seemed to him to be a size too big for him and also a dark hoodie, i.e. a sweatshirt with a hood which he also described as “baggy”. None of these details match Dadayev who is a large man with an athletic build.

Yevgeny also said that the man got into the back seat of a white Russian-made car which looked like a Priora, similar to a Ford, although investigators have said the getaway car was a ZAZ Chance. LifeNews originally reported several white cars in footage obtained in the first days after the murder, but then said none of the cars’ owners turned out to be related to the crime.

In this latest rendition of the eyewitness story, there is now a “strange couple” on the scene who have never been mentioned before.  Yevgeny said “a girl and a middle-aged woman in a black fur coat appeared somehow,” exchanged a few phrases with Duritskaya, then both women turned off the pedestrian walkway and went down the stairs which lead to the Moscow River Embankment.

Regarding the street-cleaning vehicle, Yevgeny said that it stopped slightly ahead of the scene of the crime. Duritskaya ran to the driver with a cell phone in her hand, but had only a brief conversation with him for a few seconds. He opened his window, then drove on further.

Yevgeny then came up to Nemtsov lying on the pavement, and said he was still alive because he was still groaning. Yevgeny tried to lift him up, but seeing a small amount of vomit on his face thought perhaps he was drunk and started asking Duritskaya what happened. Says Kommersant (translation by The Interpreter):

According to Yevgeny, she was upset and frightened, and kept asking “What’s wrong with him? What’s wrong with him?”and “Don’t leave me alone here.” Finally, the girl told Yevgeny that her companion had been shot. Then the young man went to the man a second time, only to conform that he had died. “I discovered a small bullet hole on the clothing of the man who had fallen, from the side of his back,” said Yevgeny. “I raised his head, hoping to help somehow, but I saw that the man was already glassy-eyed.”

Dadayev’s defense attorneys plan to use the discrepancies between Dadayev’s confession and Yevgeny’s testimony to prove that he was not involved in the murder.

Some of the details differ slightly between the version of the story told to LifeNews on February 28 by “Viktor M.” and the story “Yevgeny” is telling now.

Viktor M. said the perpetrator did not have a down jacket on or a hat, but that he was wearing either a hoodie or “a sweater” which seemed to him to have an elastic band.

Russians use the term tolstovka, literally “Tolstoy’s shirt” which used to be the word to describe a Tolstoyan tunic, to describe what is known in the US as a “hoodie”. 

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, former Kremlin advisor Andrei Illarionov says that when the testimony of Viktor M. on LifeNews was compared with the TV Tsentr video, where a figure can be seen walking behind Nemtsov and Duritskaya, his story seemed not to match. He said it was likely “disinformation.”

Illarionov said Viktor M. was not 80 meters away from the scene of the crime, but more like 200, and that he didn’t “throw himself” at the body, but just moved at a rapid pace toward the scene. In fact, he may have been out of the line of sight and may not have seen the killer flee, said Illarionov. He found so many mismatches in his story that he said Viktor M. might be the killer himself.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick