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.
Two suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov were arraigned in Basmanny Court today and ordered into pre-trial prison until April 28, and three others were identified as suspects and placed in detention until May 7 and 8.
– 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:
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.
As we reported earlier today, yesterday March 8, Gazeta.ru covered the court appearance of five suspects arrested in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Russian investigators are probing the background of Zaur Dadayev,reportedly the main suspect in the Nemtsov murder case and its organizers as well as its executer, says Gazeta.ru.
A source in law-enforcement said that most likely this is Zaur Dadayev, deputy commander of the Sever [North] commander.
The forensic analysis obtained by law-enforcement bodies give grounds to suppose that the person who shot Nemtsov was Dudayev.
He didn’t say what exactly this forensic analysis consisted of, and Gazeta.ru asks whether or not it was gunpowder on the skin or clothing of Dudayev or whether his description matches videotapes from surveillance cameras.
This sounds less certain than the statement made two days ago by Albert Barakhayev, acting deputy secretary for the security council of Ingushetia, who “confirmed” that this was the same Zaur Dadayev who was in the Sever Battalion; Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov also said it was the same man, that he knew him as a “patriot of Russia” and a “devout” Muslim believer. And other investigators said that they had hair samples from the getaway car that matched the suspect.
“This can be confirmed one hundred percent when the murder weapon is found,” a source told Gazeta.ru. Investigators are said to be searching the bottom of the Moscow River near the bridge where Nemtsov was killed.
The source also said that Dadayev confessed to the murder “although he was very reluctant to communicate with investigators.”
“From his scant testimony it follows that he was the organizer of the murder,” said the source.
Given that all of the sources on this story are anonymous and their stories are starting to shift, it may be that the investigation is stuck on proving that this particular Chechen is related to the shooting, even if they can place him in a car they think is the getaway car.
As Gazeta.ru notes, as deputy commander of the Sever battalion, Dadayev would have answered to Col. Alimbek Delimkhanov, the brother of Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov, who became notorious for being caught with a golden gun in parliament.
The Delimkhanovs are among the closest associates of Kadyrov as they are his cousins. The Sever Battalion and also the Yug [South] Battalion were created in 2006 under the patronage of Kadyrov himself. The consist of former officers of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Center of Chechnya and the presidential security service. Formally, these units are subordinate to the command of the North Caucasus District troops of the Interior Ministry of Russia.
Dadayev was said to serve for 10 years in a special division of the Interior Troops which then became Sever. In 2010, he was awarded the Order of Courage. Recently, he was said to resign from the service under circumstances that are not known.
Dadayev, along with Anzor and Shagid Gubashev, his third cousins, were all detained together in neighboring Ingushetia.
As we reported, after the name of the suspect became known, Kadyrov wrote about him on his Instagram:
I knew Zaur as a real patriot of Russia. From the very first days of the creation of the regiment which was a part of the 46th Separate Operations Brigade of the Internal Forces of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation, he served in it. He had the rank of “lieutenant.” He held the post of deputy commander of the battalion. Zaur was one of the most fearless and courageous soldiers of the regiment. He was particularly distinguished in battle near Benoy, when there was a special operation against a large band of terrorists. He was awarded the Order of Courage and medals “For Bravery,” “For Service to the Chechen Republic” and a Letter of Gratitude from the head of the Chechen Republic and so on.
The investigators now have a “foreign” angle in the case, says Gazeta.ru:
Law-enforcement agencies have established the foreign contacts of the suspects in the murder of Nemtsov, therefore the theory of the foreign footprint is also being actively developed, a law-enforcement source told Interfax. He noted that according to one theory, the motive for the murder of Nmetsov “could have become the politician’s [Nemtsov’s] sharp expressions regarding Islam.”
No indication was given of which foreign countries were involved.
As we reported, back on February 28, when the Investigative Committee first floated the “Islamist” or “Charlie Hebdo” angle, Ramzan Kadyrov in fact didn’t pick it up, and stuck to his script about “Western intelligence agencies” being responsible.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Yesterday, March 7 was the 9th day since Boris Nemtsov was gunned down by men who now are claimed to be the Chechen suspects arrested by Russian law-enforcers.
In the Russian Orthodox Church, the 9th day after someone’s death is an occasion for another church service or memorial activity of some kind to reflect on the person’s life. The “9th day” is a ceremony kept even by secular people in Russia.
Novaya Gazeta reported on people laying wreaths at the site of Nemtsov’s murder. Ekho Moskvy noted the occasion.
Grani.ru reported a picket organized by Nemtsov’s friends and colleagues from the Solidarity movement, who organized a procession carrying Russian and Ukrainian flags and Nemtsov’s poster from the Barrikadnaya metro stop to the site of his killing. Police did not intervene, although they did not have a permit.
But activists wearing St. George ribbons from the National Liberation Movement (NOD) founded by hard-line Russian senator Yevgeny Fyodorov who had just come from picketing the US Embassy claiming the CIA was behind Nemtsov’s murder learned of the action and came to try to break it up. They shouted hateful slogans at participants, surrounded the picketers and trying to pick a fight. The Solidarity activists summoned police, and finally were able to proceed with their procession.
In thinking about Boris Nemtsov’s life, we would summarize a lot of what has been written about him in 8 key points that both
explain why he was an important figure in Russian life and not the
marginalized “has-been” that Russian leaders and pro-Kremlin
commentators are saying, and also explain why his death is a landmark in
1. He was killed on the eve of a major public march that
significantly challenged the government – regarding the war in Ukraine
and austerity measures. Past anti-war marches had drawn at least 30,000 participants. Sadly, the planned March 1 march was turned into a memorial march but still gathered at least 30,000 people or more, many of them who said they hadn’t planned to come to the original march but felt when an opposition leader was killed, they had to take a stand. Many other cases of political murders can be tied to
the victim’s public role, Nemtsov appears to be the only one whose killing appeared
intended to stop him from leading a public event.
2. Nemtsov is apparently the first former Kremlin official since the Stalin era to be
murdered in Moscow. His death has been compared to that of
Sergei Kirov in 1934, whose murder started the round of Stalin’s purges. Other victims of assassins in the last 20 years have been parliamentarians or officials in the Caucasus. While a former government official (governor of Nizhegorodskaya
Region from 1991-1997 and first deputy prime minister from 1997-1998), he still had access to some elements of the government who were more
liberal minded and even if he didn’t meet with them, had their
attention. This was demonstrated by some of those who came to his
funeral, such as deputy premier Arkady Dvorkovich. There has been an unwritten rule since Stalin that officials from previous governments are not killed; now this line has been crossed.
3. He was a accomplished physicist with numerous scientific
publications which meant that he had standing in Russian society; his
one-time fellow “Union of Right Forces” member Sergei Kiriyenko, the
head of Rosatom, the nuclear agency attended his funeral.
4. He was known and respected in the West; he testified in the US
Congress and spoke abroad on many occasions as he was fluent in English.
But Nemtsov was not one of those Russians “for export” – he was very
much rooted in his country through actual work in it. A little noticed
gesture that occurred on the morning of Saturday, February 28, the day
after Boris was killed, was when all 28 European ambassadors together walked in a
procession from the EU mission at Kadashevskaya Embankment, 14/1, to lay wreaths at
the site of Nemtsov’s murder a few blocks away on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky
5. He helped pushed for the Magnitsky Act which meant that he was
involved in action abroad designed to deter the lawlessness and
abusiveness of Russia’s corrupt government at home – which could easily
be mischaracterized as treason by those targeted. Among the people reported to be listed under the Magnitsky Act is Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechen Republic who has been tied to numerous human rights violations including disappearances and murders.
6. He researched
and wrote or co-authored the report exposing the grotesque overspending
and corruption of the $51 billion Sochi Olympics; co-authored a video
outlining Russia’s responsibility for MH17 that had a million views on
YouTube and was preparing a report on the Russian military presence in
Ukraine. The issue is not that these materials were somehow secret or
not reported by others; rather it was that Nemtsov knew how to
politically promote them at home and abroad. Before his death, he had a visit from the relatives of missing paratroopers, and some paratroopers concerned about not getting their pay had also communicated with him.
7. He was under both electronic and physical surveillance which has been confirmed by his colleagues and former US ambassador Michael McFaul; especially in the days before the
big march he would have been watched; that means if his killers were unrelated to the government, the very security tailing him might have
prevented an attack on him or would readily know the facts of the case.
8. He was
killed not at home, as so many of Russia’s victims have been killed, but in a very public and symbolic place – by the Kremlin, and the
killing was staged in such a way that the pictures and videos that would
result from this crime would send the message of a looming Kremlin over
a defeated and dead dissident.
9. In Nemtsov’s case, law-enforcers moved with lightning speed and had 2
persons charged and 4 more suspects within 9 days of his death; one blew
himself up as police tried to arrest him. One of the suspects was a
decorated and respected policeman in Kadyrov’s forces. Dozens of prominent civic figures have been assassinated in Russia in the last 20 years, and usually the search for the killers drags on endlessly and even if arrests are made, family and supporters believe that the masterminds have not been found and tried.
A lot of the Russian coverage of Nemtsov’s life have focused on three issues: whether or not he was significant; what his own ethnic heritage was; and whether he was knew he could be killed and was afraid of Putin.
The first issue we have addressed in a memoir of Nemtsov. See also Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015).
Boris himself was of Jewish heritage, but baptized into the Russian
Orthodox Church by his paternal grandmother and was nominally Russian
Orthodox as he described in his autobiography The Provincial. He attended church services occasionally as can be seen from a video from his years as governor of Nizhny Novgorod, but said in his book that
religion “plays an insignificant role” in his life. For Russians of any
ethnicity, church ceremonies and holidays can be celebrated as a
cultural rather than religious matter and increasingly this is a political
statement, as the ROC is allied with the state.
Boris’ friends and colleagues placed a Russian Orthodox cross on his grave.
In condolences sent to Nemtsov’s mother, President Vladimir Putin made a point of using her maiden name, which is Jewish.
This may indeed have been “anti-Semitic coding” against Nemtsov, as Ukrainian human rights advocate Halya Coynash pointed out in an article . Nemtsov’s mother, who turned 88 on the very day of his funeral, has said that she did not use the name “Eidman” in 63 years:
According to Alfred Kokh
who visited the family shortly after Nemtsov was gunned down near the
Kremlin, Dina Yakovlevna is in no doubt why her maiden name was used,
that being to stress that Nemtsov was “really Jewish”.
Lev Krichevsky, a Russian writer who published a piece on Jews in the Russian government in 2005 for the American Jewish Committee, also referred to Nemtsov’s mother’s name, spelled as “Eydman” in a piece expressing concern about the backlash of anti-Semitism against figures associated with pro-Western economic reforms.
Coynash pointed out that Nemtsov himself had also said his mother’s full
name was Dina Yakovlevna Eidman in an interview not long before his
death on February 10, 2015 for the publication Sobesednik.
This interview, with its original headline, “I am Afraid Putin Will
Kill Me,” is what has been widely used to indicate that Nemtsov himself
believed Putin would kill him.
In fact there was a bit of tabloid manipulation here, as what
Nemtsov actually said came in an answer to a Sobesednik reporter, who
asked if he were afraid Putin would kill him, after Nemtsov spoke of his
mother’s fears (translation of excerpt by The Interpreter):
Nemtsov: Every time I call her, she lectures me: “When are you going to
stop criticizing Putin:? He’ll kill you” And this was in complete
She regards VVP [Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin], naturally, very badly — I am her
son, in the final analysis. Mama always taught me that I must defend my
point of view, to be independent and self-sustaining. She raised me this
way to her chagrin, and now she is upset that I criticize Putin who
tries to take our freedom away. She is really afraid that he may kill me
in the near future due to my speeches — both in real life, and on
social networks. And again, I repeat, these are not jokes: she’s an
intelligent person. She is very afraid of this. She is very worried as
well about Khodorkovsky (she saw him not long before he was jailed and
is friends with him), about Navalny, but not so strongly about them
since she’s my mother, after all, and not theirs.
And after such conversations with your mother, did you fear that Putin
could in the near future kill you personally or through middle-men?
know…yes…A little bit. But not as strongly as Mama, but still…But
still, I don’t fear him so strongly. If I did very strongly fear him,
then I would hardly lead an opposition party, and would hardly do what
I’m doing. By the way, say hello to Dmitry Bykov from me and Mama.
Sobesednik: Thanks, I will. I hope nonetheless common sense will triumph and Putin will not kill you.
Nemtsov: God willing. And I hope so, too.
After he was murdered, Nemtsov’s friends, including Ilya Yashin, were very upset at this headline being linked to make it seem as if Boris had himself spontaneously made this statement, although as the translation shows, it was an answer to a question from a reporter, and more about his mother. The headline was subsequently changed to “Mother of Boris Nemtsova Fears He Will Be Killed.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ramzan Kadyrov has once again taken to his Instagram to comment on current events, confirming that he knows the suspect arraigned today in the murder of Boris Nemtsov as a decorated hero, but claims he had resigned from the force.
The Interpreter has a translation:
The Basmanny Court of Moscow has sanctioned the arrest of Zaur Dadayev, suspected of involvement in the murder of Boris Nemtsov. I knew Zaur as a real patriot of Russia. From the very first days of the creation of the regiment which was a part of the 46th Separate Operations Brigade of the Internal Forces of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation, he served in it. He had the rank of “lieutenant.” He held the post of deputy commander of the battalion. Zaur was one of the most fearless and courageous soldiers of the regiment. He was particularly distinguished in battle near Benoy, when there was a special operation against a large band of terrorists. He was awarded the Order of Courage and medals “For Bravery,” “For Service to the Chechen Republic” and a Letter of Gratitude from the head of the Chechen Republic and so on.
I am firmly convinced that he is sincerely devoted to Russia, and was prepared to give his life for the Motherland. The media is broadcasting that Zaur admitted his complicity in the murder of Boris Nemtsov in court. Everyone who knows Zaur confirms that he is a deeply religious person and that he, like all Muslims was shaken by the actions of Charlie [Hebdo] and commentary in support of the printing of the cartoons. I have ordered the secretary of the Security Council of the Chechen Republic Vakhit Usmayev to conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances of Zaur’s resignation, to study his behavior and his mood before departure from service. In any event, if the court confirms the guilt of Dadaev, then, having killed a man, he has committed a serious crime. But I want to note that he could not make a step against Russia, for whose sake he risked his own life for many years. The same is the case of the brave warrior Beslan Shavanov, who was killed last night as he was detained. We are confidant that a thorough investigation will be made that will show really whether Dadayev was guilty and what in fact served as the reason for his act. #Kadyrov #Russia #Chechnya #MVD
Kadyrov’s statement is very careful, because on the one hand, he claims that Dadayev had resigned from service so that Kadyrov’s own force is not directly implicated in the murder, and on the other hand, he provides a ready-made motive, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which Nemtsov had written a blog about, published on Ekho Moskvy several weeks before his death, in which he characterized the Muslim response to the cartoons as “medieval” although the cartoons issue was not central for him, and he had many more pressing issues in his writing and speeches, namely the war in Ukraine and the economic crisis.
Kadyrov also accentuates his loyalty to Russia throughout, implying that part of that loyalty could involve attacking enemies of Putin.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
With the arraignment of a former Chechen policeman, Zaur Dadayev, who was decorated and supported personally by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, the question is actively being debated as to whether Kadyrov’s forces were behind the murder of Boris Nemtsov — and possibly other murders of opposition or human rights figures.
Kadyrov has distanced himself from the case by claiming Dadayev had resigned from the service, was a devout believer upset about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and conceding that murder is a serious crime that should be tried.
But a closer look at Kadyrov’s own incitement of his troops is warranted, and the tendency of Kremlin authorities to tolerate him not only taking care of business in the Chechen Republic without central interference, but to look the other way as Chechen policemen under his control turn up fighting in the war in Ukraine as “volunteers” for the Russian-backed separatists.
Since the murder of Boris Nemtsov on February 27, 2015, Russian officials have raised among their widely divergent theories for the perpetrators the possibility that “Chechens” or “persons of Caucasian ethnicity” from Russia’s North Caucasus could be responsible for the murder.
Chechens, Dagestanis and others from the North Caucasus are often scapegoated for crime in Russia, not only after two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s but an ongoing battle by Russian forces with terrorist insurgency in Dagestan and other republics in the 2000s.
When Russians talk about “Chechens” as murderers, they mean roughly four different categories of Chechens:
1. Those Chechens who are members of Caucasus Emirate, the terrorist group, or other terrorist or militant groups, who have taken responsibility for the worst terrorist attacks in Russia in the last decade.
2. Those militants who fought in the Chechen wars and supported the elected government of Aslan Maskhadov, who oppose terrorism, i.e. attacks on civilians, as a means of struggle but who remain opposed to the Kremlin. Some of these fighters are in the Dudayev Battalion, named after Dzhokhar Dudayev, president of Chechnya in the Yeltsin era, which is fighting in Ukraine on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces.
3. Chechens who are hardened fighters from the wars or otherwise trained in battle who are available as hired killers for any individual or group cause. Sometimes these people are nicknamed otmorozki, a word from prison slang taken from the Russian word for “frost” which means cold-hearted killers or people who have become zombies.
4. Chechens loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov serving in his police under the Chechen Republic branch of the Interior Ministry, or in some other local law-enforcement capacity. Some volunteers from these forces have fought at the Donetsk Airport in both the brief May 2014 battle and the airport battle that lasted months afterward and ended in January 2015, on the side of the Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine. They have also been spotted at other battlegrounds and some have said to take over the town of Krasnodon in Lugansk Region near the Ukrainian-Russian border.
It’s this fourth category of Chechen that the opposition means when they talk about a “Chechen footprint” in Nemtsov’s murder, but it’s the first, second or third category of Chechens that the Russian Investigative Committee usually mean when accusing Chechens of crimes.
In fact, one of the versions floated about Nemtsov’s murderer was that Adam Osmayev, the head of the Dudayev Battalion, could be responsible although no evidence or even hypothesis was supplied. Osmayev, who lives in Odessa, was once charged with an assassination attempt on Putin, then cleared of these charges even under deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych; he was eventually charged with possession of explosives and sentenced to time served in pre-trial detention and released. Both the official and independent press in Russia continue to refer to him as “having made an attempt on the life of Putin,” although no evidence was provided.
Now that suspects from Kadyrov’s own police have been arrested, the issue is whether Kadyrov’s forces are being used as a covert form of settling scores with Putin’s enemies.
In a piece March 3 debunking some of the official claims about Nemtsov’s role and his murder, his fellow opposition leader Alexey Navalny included among his own theories for the murder
– the bearded Kadyrov Hurons with machine guns at the stadium.
This is a real, outright unlawful armed formation under the leadership
of the head of a subject of the RF [Russian Federation], who by law
doesn’t even command the Emergencies Ministry.
(Navalny used the term “Hurons,” the Native American tribe, to mean “fierce fighters”; the Hurons were allies of the French. The term, like “Last of the Mohicans,” entered Russian idiom from a novel by James Fenimore Cooper, The Deer-Slayer. Cooper was an American author whose works were allowed to be translated and read in Soviet schools.)
Navalny included in his post a video of Kadyrov giving a speech at a ceremony in a sports stadium on December 28, praising his police forces, re-iterating their loyalty to Vladimir Putin, and referencing the special battalion founded by his father, which his father described as “the combat infantry of Vladimir Putin.”
It was that battalion in which the suspected murderer served, although according to a statement today, Kadyrov said he had resigned from the battalion.
It’s worth taking a closer look at this video now. The Interpreter has translated some of the relevant quotes from the video, with some commentary:
“30 years ago, the Western intelligence agencies, in order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, advanced Bin Ladn, he did not perform his obligations, and became the number one terrorist against the USA.”‘
The idea that the US “created and supplied Osama Bin Ladn to fight the Soviets is a common trope of Soviet and Russian propaganda, but as US officials as well as the British Guardianand Washington Post have explained, the CIA had no dealings with bin Ladn when they supported mujaheddin the Afghan war through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. It’s also important to remember that regardless of US covert aid, one million civilians were killed by Soviet troops.
“Now, America has found his replacement in the Middle East in Baghdadi.”
This is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the ISIS. It is also a staple of Russian propaganda that the US has funded ISIS forces to defeat Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and is now facing the backlash in the form of beheadings of captured Americans. Regardless of US support of anti-Assad forces, this is also a distortion, given that Russia has supplied a $1 billion of arms to Assad, backing him militarily and politically throughout the conflict, and bears some responsibility for the some 200,000 civilians killed.
By setting up bin Ladn and Baghdadi as really “American terrorists,” Kadyrov can then set the stage to explain why loyal Muslims must oppose the US — and any opposition members dubbed “fifth columnists” with Western ties. Kadyrov also characterizes ISIS in Iraq and Syria as “threats to Russia.” Recently, FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov said at a conference at the White House on countering extremism that “1,700 fighters” have gone from the Russian Federation to fight alongside Islamists in Iraq and Syria. These numbers have not been explained or validated.
Kadyrov then recalls his father, the former mufti of Chechnya, who he said “had no army but had the Koran in his hands” — a claim that was disputed at the time by slain Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who said Akhmad had an armed retinue responsible for disappearances in Chechnya.
Ramzan said that when the Chechen people “didn’t have a friend,” and his father defended Chechnya but also the “territorial integrity of Russia,” Putin came to their aid — and not without some resistance in his own cabinet:
“The president of Russia [Vladimir Putin] was forced to prove to military people and the entire people that it was precisely Akhmad Kadyrov who could gather the Chechen people torn into pieces by war, restore peace and stability, cope with international terrorists who are trying to damage the country.”
This is a strange statement in that it implies that some other forces in Putin’s circle opposed the appointment of Akhmad. It’s also possible that as a Chechen who was for “territorial integrity” and part of the centrally-approved mufti, the father came to Putin’s attention because he cooperated with the FSB or KGB in the past, which is why Putin singled him out for trust. Kadyrov adds, however that it was Kadyrov who appealed to Putin as president, and at first “repeatedly got refusals, I saw this with my own eyes.”
Ramzan said that on May 1, 2004, Akhmad made a speech in which he said:
The time has come for each of us to make a concrete choice. The time has come for us to make our conscious choice and we say this to the whole world that we are the combat infantry of Vladimir Putin. If the order comes, we have said, that it will come to pass.
Ramzan then applied this to the current time:
And now we and you — and there are now tens of thousands of us who have passed through special training — ask the national leader of Russia to consider us a volunteer special detachment of the Commander-in-Chief prepared to defend Russia and the stability of its borders, and fulfill a combat assignment of any difficulty. We realize that there is the regular army in the country, the navy and the air force, but there are assignments that only volunteers can perform, and we and you will perform them.
Ramzan then recited various spiritual leaders who had inspired him and then cried:
“Long live our great nation, Russia! Long live our nationaleader of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Allahu Akhbar! Allahu Akhbar! Allahu Akhbar!”
Putin apparently did not respond to this speech or approve this “volunteer special detachment” — which is why Navalny calls it “an illegal armed formation” — but he also does not appear to have made any move to stop it, either.
In December, when Putin gave his year-end press conference,Ksenya Sobchak, a famous talk-show host in Russia and daughter of the mayor of St. Petersburg who died in 2000, challenged the president over his tolerance of Kadyrov’s policy of ordering the homes of relatives of terrorists to be burned to the ground. Putin responded by saying this was understandable because Kadyrov had lost his own relative in the gunfight with terrorists in Grozny, but conceded that it was a violation of the law. Nevertheless, the burning of the houses, and also of the offices of human rights advocates who protested this policy, continued.
Sobchak later was charged with libel by the Chechen government, and had death threats and hecklers who came to her house and was threatened again at the funeral of Boris Nemtsov.
For some, if Kadyrov’s forces turn out to be behind the murder of Nemtsov, and this even leads to the removal of Kadyrov, this would be a nice solution that exonerates Putin from the charges of some of the worst violations of human rights in Russia, and specifically Nemtsov’s murder, and preserves him for legitimate support by the West.
This analysis overlooks just how much Kadyrov is a creature of Putin’s however, and one that he is happy to use for plausible deniability, for example, in the Russian forces fighting in Ukraine who come from the Chechen police.
Kadyrov above all is mindful of how Putin could be a potential threat to him, which is why he explicitly describes Putin as facing resistance in the appointing of his father, and then prevailing, and invoking his own loyalty to Putin, who appointed him.
When Akhmadov was assassinated on May 9, 1994 at a Victory Day celebration — 8 days after his speech on the “infantry of Vladimir Putin” — Shamil Basayev, the leading Chechen terrorist at the time took responsibility.
Within hours of his father’s murder, Ramzan was whisked by aides to Moscow to the Kremlin, still in his blue tracksuit, where he met with Putin who made him deputy prime minister of the Chechen Republic — he was too young by law to be made president. In 1997, he was appointed president.
Since then, Putin has excused many things that are widely believed to be the responsibility of Kadyrov, such as the killing of human rights activist Natalya Estimirova and disappearances or murders of thousands of other people.
While Putin bears responsibility for Kadyrov, it is debated how much he controls him, even when he decides to do so. An article by Yelena Milashina published in Novaya Gazeta 2013 titled “Bastrykin’s Humiliation” translated by The Interpreter describes how in May 2013 Putin appointed Sergei Bobrov, a special investigator from the Investigative Committee headed by Aleksandr Bastrykin, himself associated with fabricated cases against the opposition, to try to clean up some of the problems in Chechnya. As Milashina explained:
The ineffectiveness of the Chechen Investigative Department led to the Russian IC being forced to assign investigators from the Central Office of the IC to investigate high-profile cases, such as the murder of Natalya Estemirova committed in 2009. This year in general there has been a marked surge in murders of Chechen human rights defenders and activists which led to the complete destruction of civil society in the republic.
In addition to the cases of activists, there were several cases involving the murder of civilians, including two women who ran a car-wash in Grozny. These appeared to be “excesses” committed by forces loyal to Kadyrov. Bobrov worked diligently and was preparing the arrests of several Chechen policeman when suddenly, a tape was released titled “Kadyrov v. Bobrov” that seemed to be leaked from his interrogations by the suspects.
Bobrov then quickly went on a vacation in November, and on December 2, Putin signed a decree relieving him of his duties. The entire story indicated that even when Moscow center sent in its top investigators to cope with Kadyrov’s abusive police they were threatened by these police and eventually forced out of the job.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
According to Novaya Gazeta, five persons appeared today in Moscow’s Basmanny Court in the murder investigation of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Two, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev (also Kubashev) were arraigned, i.e. formally charged in the Russian criminal justice system and placed under pre-trial detention until April 28 on charges under Art. 105-2, sections zh and z and Art. 222 of the Russian criminal code (pre-meditated murder and illegal possession of weapons).
Dadaev pleaded guilty, and Gubashev pleaded not guilty.
The other three were categorized as suspects in the case and also put in detention, as the judge selected the measure of restraint as “arrest” or jail, as they were seen as a flight risk.
One suspect was the brother of Anzor, Shagid Gubashev, arrested on March 7 at 21:00, who was ordered detained until May 7. Two other suspects, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev, arrested at 2:20 am today, March 8 were ordered detained until May 8.
A sixth suspect blew himself up with a grenade as police banged on the door of his apartment in Grozny.
RIA Novosti said
security was heavy around the court house, with some 10 police vans
parked nearby and police patrolling the area and readying metal
barriers. Journalists gathered near the courthouse which at first was closed, but then reporters were allowed in.
Police wearing masks, which is routine with the handling of suspects considered dangerous criminals, led the suspects into the court room in handcuffs, then led them out of the courtroom with their heads pushed down. In that position, one arrested man was banged against the doorknob, Mediazona reported.
As Novaya Gazeta and others have reported, one of the names in the list is Zaur Dadayev of the 46th Separate Operations Purpose Brigade of the Interior Ministry who was decorated personally by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
In a speech at the ceremony in October 19, 2010, Rashid Nurgaliev, then head of the Interior Ministry said that the 46th Brigade was founded by Ramzan’s father Akhmad Kadyrov, the former chief mufti of Ichkeria, the independent Chechen republic, who switched sides to serve the central Russian government, and who was assassinated at a May 9th Victory Day rally in 1994.
Nurgaliev said he was the first to fight “the evil cunning enemy — terrorism” who did not “die” but “departed as a victor”. Putin installed Akhmad after the second Chechen war to enforce the pacification of the Chechen insurgency.
Novaya Gazeta reported that other people in the list of persons given medals were being investigated as well.
Translation: suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov have been arrested. Photos from the court and the place of the murder.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick