Assassination of Boris Nemtsov
|Assassination of Boris Nemtsov|
Flowers and candles near the site of Nemtsov's assassination
|Location||Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, Moscow|
|Date||27 February 2015 |
|Perpetrators||Zaur Dadaev (20-year sentence), 4 accomplices (11–19-year sentences); Convicted July 2017|
|Motive||Criticism of Islamism and Ramzan Kadyrov (disputed)|
The assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian politician opposed to the government of Vladimir Putin, happened in central Moscow on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge at 23:31 local time on 27 February 2015. An unknown assailant fired seven or eight shots from a Makarov pistol; four of them hit Boris Nemtsov in the head, heart, liver and stomach, killing him almost instantly. He died hours after appealing to the public to support a march against Russia's war in Ukraine. Nemtsov's Ukrainian partner Anna Duritskaya survived the attack as its sole eyewitness.
The assassination was met with worldwide condemnation and concern for the situation of the Russian opposition. Russian authorities also condemned the murder and vowed to conduct a thorough investigation.
On 8 March 2015, Russian authorities charged Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadaev, both originating from the Northern Caucasus, with involvement in the crime. According to Russian authorities, Dadaev confessed to involvement in the murder. However, he later retracted his statement, as extracted by torture. Three more suspects were arrested around the same time and, according to Russian media, another suspect blew himself up in Grozny when Russian police forces surrounded his apartment block.
Nemtsov was shot and killed crossing the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin walking home after a meal out, in the company of Anna Duritskaya (Russian: Анна Дурицкая), a 23-year-old Ukrainian model who had been his girlfriend for two and a half years. She witnessed Nemtsov's killing, but was not physically harmed herself. TV Tsentr's video of the bridge at the time of the murder shows that it occurred as a municipal utility vehicle was passing by Nemtsov and a person is seen escaping from the scene in a white or grey automobile. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, at the time of the murder all the security cameras in the area were switched off for maintenance. The only video of the incident was obtained from the video feed camera of TV Tsentr studio, from a long distance. At the time of the killing, the camera was blocked by a stopped municipal vehicle. The killing happened the day before Nemtsov was due to lead the opposition march Vesna (Russian: весна, lit. 'spring'), a street demonstration organised to protest against economic conditions in Russia and against the war in Ukraine.
Putin took "personal control" of the investigation into Nemtsov’s assassination.
The killer was apparently waiting for Nemtsov on a side stairway leading to the bridge. At least six shots were fired, four of which hit Nemtsov; one wound was fatal. According to Kommersant sources, the killer used either a standard Makarov pistol or an IZh gas pistol modified for use with lethal ammunition. According to a witness, "a young man named Viktor M., who followed Nemtsov", the killer was a man of 170–175 centimetres (5 ft 7 in–5 ft 9 in) height, short haircut, medium build, dressed in jeans and a brown sweater.
Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Investigative Committee, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Federal Security Service to create a single team to investigate the assassination of Nemtsov. The investigation team is headed by Igor Krasnov, who had previously investigated an attempt on the life of Anatoly Chubais and the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. The team is supervised by the head of the Investigative Committee in Moscow, general Alexander Drymanov. Drymanov has also supervised the investigation against Nadezhda Savchenko, the second trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, as well as the charges of genocide during the Russo-Georgian War against Georgian military.
During the night following the assassination, Nemtsov's apartment on Malaya Ordynka street was searched and all documents and materials related to his business and political activities were confiscated. Opposition media raised concerns this was done to retrieve a draft of report on Russian involvement in the war in Donbass announced by Nemtsov shortly before his death. Partial information on the report's contents were later revealed by Nemtsov's friends.
On 28 February, a white Lada Priora car possibly belonging to the assassin(s) was found abandoned. Russian state media reported that the car had a number-plate originating in the Republic of Ingushetia, although initial witnesses had stated that the white car involved in the shooting did not have any license plates. An underwater search in the Moscow River to retrieve the weapon presumably discarded by the killer after the assassination gave no result. A cash reward of 3 million rubles (~43,000 euros) is being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.
Durytska, having testified before the investigative team, returned to Ukraine on 2 March. Because of reported threats to her life, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin provided Durytska with state protection.
By 3 March, the official investigation concluded that Nemtsov had been tracked from 11:00 am when he met Durytska in Sheremetyevo Airport. Nemtsov had been followed by three alternating cars en route from the airport to the city. On 23:22 the group of killers was ordered to move to the assigned spot, when Nemtsov and Durytska left the GUM café. On 23:29 the car with the assailant turned around under Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge and approached the stairs leading to the bridge. On 23:30 the assailant walked upstairs onto the bridge and moved towards Nemtsov and Durytska. Having walked past them, he turned around and fired at Nemtsov's back. After the assailant got into the car, it moved from the bridge to Bolotnaya Street, then to Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge, Mokhovaya Street and Tverskaya Street towards Okhotny Ryad and then turned to Bolshaya Dmitrovka before disappearing in local traffic. The car in which the assailant had escaped was later found and identified as grey ZAZ Chance. On 10 March Moskovskij Komsomolets published alleged CCTV photos of the suspects' vehicle, suggesting that they were following Nemtsov since September 2014, long before the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
On 7 March 2015, the head of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov announced the arrest of two suspects, Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadaev (ru), both originating from the Northern Caucasus. According to Russian media, Zaur Dadaev had served in the Sever battalion of the Kadyrovtsy, while Anzor Gubashev had worked as a security guard for a Moscow hypermarket; according to other sources he is an employee of a private security firm. Both are from Ingushetia but for many years had been living outside the North Caucasus republic; they are related. They were formally charged on 8 March. Dadaev confessed to the crime; Gubashev denies any involvement. Three other persons were also detained as suspects, but not charged. All of them claimed they were innocent. According to Russian media another man blew himself up with a hand grenade in Grozny when police came to arrest him.
Zaur Dadaev, a former second-in-command to the leader of battalion Sever, Alibek Delimkhanov (the brother of Adam Delimkhanov and cousin of Ramzan Kadyrov), confessed that he had decided to kill Nemtsov because of his criticism of Islam and President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, according to Russian media. Dadaev apparently stated in his confession that his immediate manager during preparation of the murder was someone named Ruslik, who provided him with 5 million rubles, a ZAZ Chance car, and a gun. Investigators suspect that Ruslik is Ruslan Geremeev, the head of a battalion Sever unit Zaur Dadaev served in, a subordinate of Alimbek Delimkhanov and a nephew of Suleiman Geremeev, a member of Federation Council of Russia. After the murder, Ruslan Geremeev was under protection in the Chechen republic and later probably left Russia for United Arab Emirates or Turkey. In the end of April Ruslan Gereemev was officially assigned a status of a suspect.
Commenting on the events, President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov said that he knew Dadaev as one of the bravest warriors who had fought in the Russian-Chechen Kadyrovtsy regiment since its creation. Dadaev had been awarded the Order of Courage, the Medal for Courage and further awards by the Chechen Republic. According to Kadyrov, Dadaev was deeply religious and greatly offended by Charlie Hebdo's publishing of the Muhammad cartoons and Nemtsov's support for the French cartoonists. However, the Kadyrovtsy were a secular unit fighting against radical Islamists and according to Dadaev's mother, her son had never mentioned Charlie Hebdo. Dadaev's mother also stated that her son was not a "strong believer" in Islam, and had in fact fought against Islamists ("Wahhabis") previously. Russia's opposition figures have called the theory that the murder was motivated by offense against Islam and the official line of inquiry by the Kremlin "more than absurd".
Russian media reported that Dadaev retracted his confession, explaining that he only confessed to avoid "what happened to Shavanov" – another suspect, who, according to the official version, blew himself up with a grenade during arrest attempt. A member of the Kremlin's advisory council on human rights, after visiting the suspects, said that Dadaev as well as the two other suspects, Anzor and Shagid Gubashev, most likely had been tortured while in detention.
Ironically, just before his murder, Nemtsov had stated, "The contract between Kadyrov and Putin—money in exchange for loyalty—is coming to an end. Where will Mr Kadyrov's 20,000 men go? What will they demand? How will they act? When will they come to Moscow?"
In late June 2017, five Chechen men were found guilty by a jury in a court at Moscow for agreeing to kill Nemtsov in exchange for 15 million rubles (US$253,000); neither the identity nor whereabouts of the person who hired them is known.
In July 2017 Zaur Dadaev was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a Russian court, while the other perpetrators were handed between 11 and 19 years each.
Criticism of the official investigation
At the end of October 2017 journalist David Satter published an article in National Review about an unofficial public investigation of the assassination. The investigation was led by Igor Murzin, a St. Petersburg lawyer who specializes in auto accidents and the interpretation of videotape. Murzin's investigation makes claims of official trial as being a cover-up, with real murderers never being under investigation.
In June 2019, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on the Russian authorities to re-open and continue the investigation, listing a number of what was called "serious concerns over its independence and effectiveness", and approved a report on the matter by Emanuelis Zingeris. PACE criticized the official version of the murder as "based on a severely flawed investigation and trial" and "inconsistent with the available evidence on numerous fundamental points". According to its unanimously approved resolution, alternative versions that Russian authorities have refused to explore are far more consistent with the available evidence. The Assembly invited states that have adopted Magnitsky laws to consider sanctions against those responsible for what it called "an investigation failure".
UN member and observer states
- The President, Vladimir Putin, sent a telegram addressed to "Dina Yakovlevna Eydman, mother of Boris Nemtsov", expressing his condolences and adding, "We will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this vile and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished."
- Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to the families.
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the murder was a 'filthy' crime and it would be investigated with utmost vigor.
- Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov accused western agencies saying "Boris Nemtsov was killed in the center of Moscow. Only those forces interested in fomenting tensions could take such a treacherous step. The organizers of Nemtsov's murder hoped to make the whole world blame the leadership of the country and to cause a wave of protests. There is no doubt that Nemtsov's murder was organized by Western intelligence services, seeking any means to cause internal conflict in Russia." He also stated that he wants to see the perpetrators of the attack brought to justice and expressed his condolences to the victim's relatives.
- President Petro Poroshenko: "Shock. They killed Boris. It's hard to believe. I have no doubt the killers will be found. Sooner or later. Eternal memory ..." "He said he would reveal persuasive evidence of the involvement of Russian armed forces in Ukraine. Someone was very afraid of this ... They killed him." On 3 March 2015, he posthumously awarded Nemtsov with the Order of Liberty.
- Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk: "Patriot of Russia, at same time a friend of Ukraine. This is what will remain in our memory of Boris Nemtsov. RIP."
- The ruling Republican Party issued a statement that said: "We hope Russia’s law enforcement agencies will punish those who committed the crime as quickly as possible and with the utmost strictness of the law".
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that he was "shocked and saddened" and called the murder a "shameful act of violence".
- President Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed his condolences over the death of "a personal friend and a friend of Estonia, who was a great democrat and a courageous fighter for freedom".
- President Sauli Niinistö stated that "the murder of Boris Nemtsov was a ferocious and reprehensible act". He suspected political reasons behind the killing and expressed his worries over the consequences.
- Minister for Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs wrote on Twitter that the "murder of Boris Nemtsov is a proof of the lunacy that rules in Russia". Expressing his condolences to the family, he also stated that "there's a very little hope for an objective investigation".
- President Dalia Grybauskaitė said the "murder of Boris Nemtsov shows that Russia is sliding down into the darkness of terror against its own people".
- President Barack Obama called Nemtsov's death a "brutal murder" and called for a "prompt, impartial and transparent investigation".
- Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had no information on the murder of Nemtsov and "wouldn't comment anyway".
- Deputy Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and former United States Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow connected assassination of Nemtsov with the 2014–15 Russian military intervention in Ukraine:"... President Putin’s aim seems to be to turn Ukraine into a failed state and to suppress and discredit alternative voices in Russia, so as to prevent a Russian “Maidan”. We’ve seen that the victims are not just in Eastern Ukraine, with the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov last Friday. While we don't know who pulled the trigger, we do know that Boris Nemtsov was a powerful voice for democracy and against Russia's involvement in Ukraine who was among those vilified as “traitors” and “fifth columnists” in Russia's official propaganda ..."
- Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the killing of Nemtsov, describing the incident as "a vile murder" and urging Russian authorities to find and punish those responsible.
- Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expressed his sympathy on behalf of Hungary to Nemtsov's family and also said they "expect the Russian government to create the conditions for a full investigation."
- President François Hollande strongly condemned the killing in Moscow and described Nemtsov as "a bold, never-tiring defender of democracy and a resolute fighter against corruption".
- Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström said: "I think everyone is deeply taken by the assassination of Nemtsov. It's an execution. And it is clear that this reinforces the image of Putin's reign of terror when it comes to security, human rights and democracy. This is furthermore one more name to be added to the already long list of, not least journalists, who have lost their lives".
- Prime Minister David Cameron said that he was "shocked and sickened" by the murder and said the "callous" killing "must be fully, rapidly and transparently investigated, and those responsible brought to justice".
- The head of the European Union's delegation in Russia, Vygaudas Ušackas, told Kommersant that he was "shocked and hopes that the Russian authorities will act without delay".
- The European Parliament on 12 March adopted a special resolution calling for an independent international investigation into the murder.
- The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, said: "I am shocked and appalled by the fact that a key opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, was shot".
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the murder of Boris Nemtsov, stating: ”He was a strong voice for democracy and we call for an impartial investigation into this terrible crime.”
- The co-chairman of the RPR-Parnas, Mikhail Kasyanov, called the killing "outrage beyond imagination".
- Leonid Gozman stated that he believes the death of Boris Nemtsov to be a message towards political opponents in the Russian Federation.
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky called the slaying his "personal grief".
- Garry Kasparov tweeted "Devastated to hear of the brutal murder of my long-time opposition colleague Boris Nemtsov. Shot 4 times, once for each child he leaves." Criticizing "24/7 propaganda about enemies of the state", Kasparov said "When they started displaying pictures of Boris and other prominent oppositionists around the city and on TV, it was an invitation to execute them." He said, "Opposition leaders are always watched closely by Russia's security services before public rallies—Boris had been planning a protest against the Ukraine war on Sunday—so how could these trained bloodhounds not notice that someone else was following him?" He criticized statements from Western leaders who had "done so much to appease the Kremlin," which he called "a criminal rogue regime", and condemned the Russian media for "[churning] out preposterous and insulting conspiracy theories about the death of a man they had called an enemy of the state."
- The vice-dean of a department of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where Boris's son, Anton Nemtsov, is a student, published a statement: "The Americans themselves created this sleazeball, themselves financed him, themselves killed him. It is the fate of all prostitutes. Yesterday evening there became one sleazeball less." After a collective letter from the students the institute apologized to Anton Nemtsov.
- Henri Reznik accused the Russian mass media of escalating the hate campaign against opposition which could have easily "attracted one of the sociopaths". He also criticised president Putin for announcing the intended direction of the investigation to be a "provocation" shortly after the murder, which, taking into account "the psychology of our law enforcement" will inevitably lead to turning the investigation into "a search for confirmations for the presidential version".
- Parliament member Dmitry Gudkov said that officials had created "the hostile atmosphere of hate in the country—they should feel guilty today for this cold murder. Even today I heard from ... members in the parliament that we, the opposition, are ‘the fifth column,’ agents of the USA." Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies stated that Nemtsov's murder "demonstrates to what extent hatred has been legitimized or even sanctioned in Russia," saying that Russia's media coverage of the war in Ukraine had portrayed individuals as "patriots" or "enemies." Yevgeny Yasin, Russia's former economy minister, stated that "Nemtsov always said everything that others were afraid to say."
- Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, said that Nemtsov "kept acting rather than waiting for the regime to fall. This made him influential and dangerous for the regime."
- On the morning of 28 February, the opposition party RPR-PARNAS announced a gathering on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge in Moscow, where Nemtsov was shot.
- On 3 March, the Russian artist Lena Hades began an art marathon in memory of Nemtsov, producing portraits of him daily. She said she would stop only when the person or people who ordered Nemtsov's murder are arrested and sentenced,
- Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev suggested that the killing was a provocation: "It’s an attempt to push the situation into complications, maybe even to destabilising the situation in the country."
- Irina Khakamada, a prominent opposition figure who co-founded a liberal party with Nemtsov, stated: "It's a provocation that is clearly not in Putin's interests, it's aimed at rocking the situation."
- Kremlin-appointed investigators have speculated that the assassination could have been "a provocation aimed at destabilising the country" or that it was motivated by "Islamic extremism". Catherine A. Fitzpatrick has dismissed such speculations by referring to them as "conspiracy theories", and The Guardian noted that the only explanation that is not being considered by the authorities is the "blindingly obvious one" that Nemtsov was killed for his criticism of Putin. A Kremlin spokesman said "It is too early to make any sort of conclusions but we can say with 146% certainty that it is a provocation."
A spontaneous memorial took place at the scene of the murder. People carried flowers along with posters emblazoned Je suis Boris, as an echo of the Je suis Charlie response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting two months earlier in Paris. On 1 March, a silent one-person rotating commemoration was held in Murmansk; a court later convicted Irina Paykacheva of involvement in the unsanctioned event and fined her 20,000 roubles. In August 2017, an activist guarding a Nemtsov memorial, Ivan Skripnichenko, was killed by a Putin supporter.
Mourners have held an around-the-clock vigil for late Nemtsov, which into its fourth year, as of 2018.
In Armenia, a parliamentary opposition party, the Armenian National Congress, released a statement condemning the murder. The independent opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan offered condolences to Nemtsov's family and stated that his murder is a "major challenge" for Russia to overcome.
The speaker of the Polish Senate, Bogdan Borusewicz, said that Nemtsov "fell victim" to "a chauvinistic campaign against people who do not agree with imperialistic policies and aggression against a neighbouring country."
Leonid Bershidsky of the Bloomberg View stated that "In recent months, Putin's propaganda machine has been vigorously inciting Russians against the 'fifth column' – those who protested against the annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin-instigated war in eastern Ukraine. Nemtsov was on every list of traitors published on the Internet and aired on state TV." In The Daily Telegraph, Ben Judah wrote that the Kremlin "either ordered or allowed [Nemtsov's murder] to happen", saying that "Nothing Boris Nemtsov did was not bugged, tailed, filmed or monitored by the secret police. It is quite simply impossible that this man could have been shot dead without the Kremlin knowing there was a plot afoot to kill him." Some saw parallels with the murder of Sergey Kirov in 1934. Brian Whitmore, writing for Radio Free Europe, stated that the murder indicated the development of a "hybrid Great Terror campaign" against Putin's opposition.
The BBC referred to an interview Nemtsov gave on 10 February 17 days before his death, in which Russia's Sobesednik newspaper reported that Nemtsov said that his mother was afraid Russian President Vladimir Putin would kill him. He added that his 86-year-old mother is also afraid for the lives of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexey Navalny. When asked if he himself feared for his life, Nemtsov answered, "Yes, not as strongly as my mother, but still ..." After the BBC referred to that interview, on 27 February 2015, the Sobesednik posted an extended version of the original interview, in which Nemtsov reportedly added, "I am just joking. If I were afraid of Putin, I wouldn't be in this line of work."
Boris Nemtsov was an organizer of the anti-crisis and anti-war march Vesna ("Spring") planned on 1 March 2015. After the murder, the organizers transformed the planned march into a memorial for Nemtsov. The participants marched from Kitay-gorod to Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge where Nemtsov was murdered. According to the organizers more than 50,000 people took part in the march, while Moscow police counted 21,000 participants. Around 50 people were arrested for disobedience to police including Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada deputy Oleksiy Honcharenko. According to Honcharenko, he was beaten and deprived of medical and legal help while in detention. Honcharenko was released from prison the next day, but he promised to sue Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
On 1 March, simultaneously with Moscow marches Nemtsov memorial marches were held in Saint Petersburg (finished with a meeting on the Field of Mars), Yekaterinburg, Murmansk London and Paris.
Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete and Speaker of the Polish Senate Bogdan Borusewicz were not allowed to attend the funeral due to travel bans imposed by Russia. The travel bans bar certain EU and Western politicians from visiting Russia for their alleged "anti-Russian activities". Russia's sanctions were imposed in response to Western-led sanctions against officials close to the Kremlin for their alleged conduct during the Ukrainian Crisis. Kalniete stated that "Since I have always taken a clear and explicit language on Russia's role in Ukraine, I had suspicions that it could happen." The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, called the ban a "high affront".
Boris Nemtsov Plaza
On 6 December 2017, Nemtsov's daughter Zhanna Nemtsova traveled from Germany, accompanied by other family members and Russian dissidents, to urge members of the Council of the District of Columbia—Washington, D.C.'s legislature—to rename a portion of the street in front of the Russian Embassy "Boris Nemtsov Plaza" in honor of her father and as a signal to Russian authorities of US disapproval of their policies and of their alleged role in Nemtsov's assassination. Legislation to formally make the change was co-sponsored by Council chairman Phil Mendelson, who expected the bill to be approved by Council early in 2018. On 9 January 2018, the Council unanimously approved the "Boris Nemtsov Plaza Designation Act of 2017" which authorized the renaming, effective 5 May 2018.
- Human rights in Russia
- List of assassinations in Europe § Russia/Soviet Union
- List of unsolved murders
- Politics of Russia
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