Russia Update: Suspects Detained in Murder of Boris Nemtsov from North Caucasus

March 7, 2015
Screen grab of footage obtained by REN TV reportedly showing the getaway car of the murderers of Boris Nemtsov.

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 companion of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was with him when he was killed has received death threats.


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’
Former Russian Intelligence Officers Behind Boisto “Track II” Talks – and Now the Flawed Minsk Agreement.

See also our Russia This Week stories:

Ultranationalists Angry over ‘Capitulation’ of Minsk Agreement,
‘Anti-Maidan’ Launched by Nationalists, Cossacks, Veterans, Bikers

The Guild War – How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists?

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Suspect in Nemtsov Murder Case Reportedly Blows Himself Up When Police Surround His Home

A resident of Grozny who threw a grenade at police attempting to arrest him in relationship to the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was blown up himself, Interfax reported, citing law-enforcement officials in Chechnya (translation by The Interpreter):

The incident took place Saturday evening. A resident of Grozny suspected of murder was blockaded in an apartment of a multi-story building on Lev Yashin Street.

The source first said that when police demanded that he give himself up, he threw a grenade and then suffered a shrapnel wound himself and died on the spot.

Then later the source told Interfax that the man first threw one grenade at police and then blew himself up with a second.

Neither police nor other residents in the building were injured. While the name of the suspect was not released, police are said to have obtained it, said the source.

The source said that the suspect was said to be related to the murder of Nemtsov.

The story follows the patterns of numerous such incidents in Dagestan in recent years, and in Chechnya, although less frequently. Police will surround a suspect in his home, demand that he come out, and if he doesn’t, shoot and kill him. Sometimes, relatives are allowed the opportunity to come out of the building. Russian forces have killed at least 300 suspects in this manner, many of them Islamist extremists in Dagestan, in the last year.

From the outset, police floated a theory that the murderers of Boris Nemtsov could be Chechens or others from the North Caucasus who are often scapegoated for crimes. The North Caucasus remains volative after two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s and an ongoing conflict in Dagestan between federal and local forces with the Caucasus Emirate, the main terrorist group, some of whose members have gone to fought in Syria and Iraq. In December, armed terrorists took over the press building and later a school in Grozny, and 11 died in gunfights with police, who also lost 18 officers.  In retaliation, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, whose relative was among the policemen killed, gave the order to burn down the homes of the relatives of the terrorists.

Earlier, Russian officials announced the apprehension of four suspects in the murder, two of whose names were given, and one who turned out to be a decorated Interior Minister policeman loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Anti-Maidan movement originally did not specifically name Chechens as part of its effort to suppress liberal demonstrators, although Afghan veterans, bikers and Cossacks are cited. Russian nationalist groups who have supplied the rank-and-file for this movement often have an antipathy to Caucasians and Central Asians and have even been involved in ethnic riots and campaigns to get migrant laborers out of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

But as it has evolved, the Anti-Maidan march organized by Fighting Brotherhood, a group founded by former Moscow Region mayor Boris Gromov, an Afghan vet, there were a number of people carrying signs showing their support for Kadyrov. Here’s a tweet from Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov:

Translation: “Putin and Kadyrov Will Not Allow Maidan”.

At the same march, people carried pictures of Nemtsov as the supposed “organizer of Maidan” in Moscow who had to be vigorously opposed.

In a piece explaining his reason why he believes the Kremlin is behind Nemtsov’s murder, Alexey Navalany noted the aggressiveness of fighters loyal to Kadyrov, some of whom have fought in the Russian-backed separatist movement in southeastern Ukraine.

In a ceremony in December 2014, Kadyrov said that if the “infantry of Vladimir Putin,” as he called his troops “receive the order, we are prepared to act.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Further on Now Four Suspects Detained in Nemtsov Murder

The business daily Kommersant has reported further information on the suspects detained in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. These include the first two suspects announced on state channel TV1 by FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov — Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev — and two others announced later in the day. Basmanny District Course will review the request for their arrest tomorrow, March 8.

Albert Barakhayev, acting secretary of the security council of Ingushetia, announced further information about the suspects, noting that Zaur Dadayev is the deputy commander of a regiment in the Sever [North] Battalion of the Interior Ministry of
the Chechen Republic, and another man who was with him at the time were detained. In addition, Anzor Gubashev, who worked in a private security agency in Moscow, and his younger brother were also detained.

The names of the second pair of men were not provided.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee confirmed the arrest of the suspects. Markin added that both Gubashev and Dadayev were suspected not only of the execution of the murder, but its organization. (This statement presupposes a common pattern of such contract murders in Russia, whereby one person is the mastermind, another person or persons organize the set-up of the murder, and then a third person or group executes the murder.)

These announcements indicate that the FSB rather than the Investigative Committee seems to be taking the lead in the
investigation, although Putin had ordered that an inter-agency task force be created to investigate the murder.

to Kommersant‘s information, the FSB spetsnaz and officers of the Main
Criminal Investigation Department of the Interior Ministry detained the
suspects in the Republic of Ingushetia, a constituent of the Russian
Federation, and immediately brought them to Moscow, where Investigative
Committee investigators issued a charging order as suspects in a
criminal case under Arts. 105 and 22 of the Criminal Code (murder and
unlawful possession of weapons).

The regional publication
Caucasian Knot reports that Barakhayev said Gubashev was detained in the
Malgobeksky District of Ingushetia on March 6, and Dadayev was detained
earlier March 5 in the Nazran District of Ingushetia. The detainees are

Aimani Dadayev, mother of the suspects, told Interfax, giving a different spelling of the name (translation by The Interpreter):

don’t believe that my son, that my nephews, they are already grown men,
they are already more than 30 years old, could undertake such a crime.
My nephews, the Kubashevs worked in Moscow in recent years. I never
heard that they were involved in anything illegal.”

Police said
they used footage from surveillance cameras and a traffic police
monitoring program called Potok [Flow] as well as material evidence
gathered from the suspected getaway car to make the arrests.  They say
the footage showed both the driver of the car and the man who shot
Nemtsov. They said they also got evidence from mobile phone calls on the
night of the murder.

The issue of whether the authorities are
sticking to their claim that the killer shot out the window or door of
the car is not clear. The TV Tsentr footage released soon after
Nemtsov’s murder shows that the shooter may have jumped off the snowplow
visible in the scene, and then got into the getaway car. It did not seem likely that the killer shot out of the window, although this is said to be “a Chechen trademark” style of shooting.

According to some information, says Kommersant, the suspects have confessed to their guilt in the murder.

lawyer of Anna Duritskaya, Nemtsov’s companion who was with him when
he was killed, said it is not clear if she will return to Moscow.
Duritskaya, a native of Kiev, reported to Ukrainian authorities that she
was getting death threats on the phone, and the Interior Ministry of
Ukraine has put her under protection. She refused to go under such
protection i Russia.

Sources have indicated to Kommersant that
there are other witnesses, including some law-enforcement agents who
coincidentally happened to be in the area of the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge that night, where Nemtsov was killed.

That does not seem to be such a coincidence in this heavily monitored area of Moscow near the Kremlin. The area is likely part of the Federal Protective Service (FSO) zone of protection which includes the Kremlin buildings.

Yashin, a close friend and colleague of Nemtsov’s remarked that when he
unfurled a banner from a bridge near the Kremlin in 2012, guards
apprehended him within seconds. Yet police took 10 minutes to reach the
scene of the crime after Nemtsov was shot. Konstantin Borovoy, another
opposition leader believes the usual patrol of the area could have been
suspended to enable the assassination of Nemtsov.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Suspects Detained from the North Caucasus in the Murder of Boris Nemtsov

As has been expected from the outset, a week after the assassination. Russian authorities have detained two suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov who are from Russia’s North Caucausus. reports Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that Anzor Gubachev and Zaur Dadayev have been detained, two men with Caucasian names, which indicates the investigation is likely following the “Caucasian scenenario” from among their theories of the case.

Bortnikov said that President Vladimir Putin had been informed of the arrests.

An erroneous claim has been widely reported that Putin was taking “personal responsibility” for the investigation, as Dmitry Medvedev and Boris Yeltsin have done with high-profile killings. But in fact Putin did not make this statement, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made clear in an interview, where he explained that Putin had assigned law-enforcement to create a special inter-agency group, and that group would take responsibility for the investigation.

No other information was provided. Interfax reported, citing a source that the two men detained were the presumed executors of the murder, and that the investigation had some good “hooks” to crack the case. The getaway car was quickly found, and the car had biological specimens in it that helped to find the trail of the perpetrators.

Due to frequent violent incidents in the Caucasus and constant police activity in arresting and even killing suspects in large numbers, many people have had to give their fingerprints, particularly the relatives of known terrorists, and possibly that helped the investigation. said that authorities were also continuing to hint that that the murder was related to Nemtsov’s personal life, possible due to a relationship with Zamira Duduzheva from Karachayevo-Cherkessia in the Caucasus, and speculated that a jealous third party could be involved.

Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer for Anna Duritskaya, Nemtsov’s companion who was with him on the night he was killed, was not summoned for questioning (translation by The Interpreter):

“The investigation has not summoned her and I am not ready to comment whether they will take such a step. I think she cannot tell the investigation any more than she has.”

Duritskaya says she did not see the killers as they came up behind to shoot Nemtsov.

Meanwhile, pro-government media is saying the opposite:

Translation: In the near future, Anna Duritskaya will be summoned for a face-to-face meeting with the suspect in the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

Bloggers have been busy sleuthing the possible social media profiles
of the killers, although it has not been confirmed that the persons with
these names are the detained suspects.

Another place the name turned up was on a Chechen government web site notice from 2010:

Translation: Note the names of those who got awards. #Nemtsov.

The implication is that an officer of the Chechen police loyal to leader Ramzan Kadyrov who was rewarded for service in 2010 could be the same person who killed Nemtsov, although there is no confirmation that the person with the same name is the same as the suspect.