war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

A Year without Boris Nemtsov and of Sham Investigation

Halya Coynash
Words of indignation about the failed investigation are almost redundant. Who seriously expected investigators in Vladimir Putin’s Russia to look for those who had ordered the killing of the President’s fiercest critic, killed close to the Kremlin on February 27, 2015?

Words of indignation about the failed investigation are almost redundant.  Who seriously expected investigators in Vladimir Putin’s Russia to look for those who had ordered the killing of the President’s fiercest critic, killed close to the Kremlin on February 27, 2015? 

It was probably to be expected that the hired killers themselves would be found, though the speed with which the men's arrests were announced aroused suspicion.  In fact, Vadim Prokhorov, the lawyer representing Nemtsov’s family is convinced that the five men, all Chechens, now in custody are all to varying degrees guilty of carrying out the killing.  That, however, is where any ‘progress’ ends.  Unless we add the fact that the investigators were forced to abandon the totally cynical version that Nemtsov had been killed over comments he made about the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  They pushed it hard, but ran up against video footage clearly showing that the defendants began following Nemtsov well before the massacre.  What the investigators will now do with the testimony somehow obtained from key suspect Zaur Dadaev to back this motive is unclear. 

Prokhorov spoke about the investigation in an Open Russian interview on Feb 22.  There are several hundred videos to look through, however there is (officially) very little from Moskvoretsky Bridge where the killing took place and none at all of the moment that Nemtsov was gunned down.  Attempts to obtain video footage have proved fruitless with the relevant bodies claiming that they don’t answer for that bridge. 

Prokhorov wrote to FSO [the Federal Protective Service], saying that if this is negligence, then General Yevgeny Murov should resign.  There is, however, another possibility, namely, ill intent by both the FSO and the Interior Ministry.  The lawyer is convinced that FSO has the needed video footage.  Since the investigators should want such footage in order to clinch the prosecution, there must be a reason why it is being concealed, he says.  One reason could be that there were security service people who were following Nemtsov, and they don’t want them to be seen.

There is at least one person whose interests are similar to those of the arrested Chechens, Prokhorov says.  “This is General Viktor Zolotov, a patron of Ramzan Kadyrov, his close friend.”  Prokhorov asserts that if Kadyrov cannot get to see Putin, then Zolotov can always do it for him. 

Zolotov is now the Chief Commander of the Internal Forces.  He was the deputy head of FSO, and continues to have huge influence over it, Prokhorov says, noting that Dadayev was in the Internal Forces. 

So too was Ruslan Geremeyev, who continues to have no official status in this case, although the investigators have long considered him to be involved.  In Dadayev’s original testimony, he said that he had been commissioned by somebody whom he referred to as ‘Rusik’ to kill Nemtsov.  This Rusik had promised to provide weapons, a car and 5 million roubles each for the murder. 

The person from “an influential family” is believed to be Ruslan Geremeyev, former officer of the ‘North’ Battalion and his driver Ruslan Mukhudinov [Rusik is an abbreviated form for Ruslan].  Geremeyev is reported to have disappeared, and many believe that Kadyrov is hiding him.

The investigators are asserting that Mukhudinov, who was also at one time in the Internal Forces, organized the assassination. 

The Nemtsov family had asked for Zolotov to be questioned, to find out why there were apparently no cameras working on the bridge, and what his relations are with Kadyrov.  This application was rejected as were many others, including the wish to question Kadyrov.

It is known that Zolotov was with Kadyrov in Chechnya at the end of August.  Prokhorov suspects that this may have been to decide how to kill the investigators’ ‘Chechen lead’ which almost certainly leads to Kadyrov himself. 

Prokhorov assumes that Putin was not directly involved, and it was specifically because the murder had been so brazenly committed near the Kremlin, that the demand was made to find the culprits.  He believes that the five defendants did not expect to be caught.  Quite the contrary, he assumes that “like for Donbas”, they expected to receive military honours. “I think they were told that this is a special operation against Russia’s enemies, and specifically against Nemtsov.  He is against Putin and Kadyrov and that means he’s an enemy of Russia and Chechnya.”

Perhaps most worryingly, Prokhorov and many other sources assert that the investigators tried to bring charges against Ruslan Geremeyev twice.  Each time they were prevented from doing this by Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee and a close Putin associate. 

Prokhorov believes that the investigators assume that this ‘investigation’ will be the same as that into the murder in 2007 of Anna Politkovskya, journalist, human rights defender and critic of Putin and Kadyrov   Those who pulled the trigger get put behind bars, and they supposedly search for those who ordered the killing for 9 years (so far).  He and Boris Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna have no intention of letting that happen.  They want to ensure that on each foreign trip Putin is asked about who organized and commissioned Nemtsov’s killing.

It was to discuss the need for an international investigation that Zhanna Nemtsov, Prokhorov, opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Kara-Murza went to Strasbourg.  During that visit, Kadyrov posted a video on Instagram showing Kasyanov directly under a sniper’s vision.  The chilling message reads: “Kasyanov has arrived in Strasbourg for money for the Russian opposition.  Who hasn’t understood, will understand”.    

The same can be said of a large number of high-profile murders since Putin came to power.  Prokhorov mentions that some believe that Putin is behind Nemtsov’s killing.  He says that he doesn’t know, but that if Putin really wanted to sort it out, he could.

He clearly doesn’t want to.  Ilya Yashin, Nemtsov’s associate and friend, has called Nemtsov’s killing an act of terrorism, intended to silence critics of the Kremlin and to compel them to leave Russia.  It is quite clear, he says, that no one will answer for Nemtsov’s murder, at least under the present regime, and that means that there will be more political assassinations.  

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