By Nikolai Sergeyev, Oleg Rubnikovich, and Vladislav
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
How the Nemtsov murder investigation is progressing
Nemtsov was shot on Friday night in the very center of
Moscow. The investigators immediately classified his murder as a contract
killing, however, there are so many possible scenarios that none of them can be
classified as the favorite one. The only thing of which the investigators are
certain is that the killers were not professionals. In any event, they used an
unreliable weapon and ammunition more than 20 years old, and they moreover left
alive the main witness of the murder.
“The most important crime”
According to Kommersant, the Nemtsov killing was classified as
the most important crime of February 27. The emergency dispatcher received
several simultaneous calls around 22:35 concerning a “gunfire wound” on the
Moskvoretskiy bridge. The first police detail arrived at the scene within 10
minutes and found Nemtsov’s corpse whose death, as is indicated in the
documents, took place within the last half hour.
The eyewitnesses include Nemtsov’s girlfriend Anna
Duritskaya, a photo model, and several passers-by. However, their testimony
revealed little. According to Kommersant’s sources, Duritskaya indicated that
she met with Nemtsov in Bosco Café at the GUM, and after supper they walked a
little around the Red Square, then went on foot toward Nemtsov’s apartment,
located at Malaya Ordynka 3.
The two barely walked 100m along the bridge when they were
approached by someone who shot Nemtsov in the back. The killer left the scene
in a white car, in which he occupied the front passenger seat.
The police was not able to find the car or the perpetrators.
Duritskaya, being in shock, was not able to indicate even the car’s make. Video
recordings of the event were either blurry or non-existent, since several
cameras were turned off for repairs. Police put out a bulletin for a white
Ford, Kia Rio, and VAZ-2110. All of these cars were found, but it turned out
their owners had nothing to do with the crime. On Saturday the investigators
took an interest in another vehicle, a Lada Priora with Ingushetia
registration. It was found next to the Smolenskaya metro station. The Lada was
used by two Ingush who also turned out to have no connection to the killing. Moreover,
on Sunday the traffic police with special reinforcements were searching red
sedans on the roads exiting Moscow.
The moment of the killing was filmed from afar by a TVTs TV
channel camera. Judging by its recording, the murder took place at 23:31.
Judging by the recording, we can assume the killer was
awaiting his victim on a side stairway leading to the bridge from which,
probably after receiving a signal from a partner, he got up to the bridge and
opened fire at Nemtsov.
Old ammunition again in use
The experts have determined that Nemtsov was struck by four
out of 6 bullets fired. One wound, to the heart, proved lethal. The shooter did
not leave the gun behind, and the spent casings raise questions. All of the
casings belong to 9mm ammunition, but were manufactured at different times and
by different manufacturers. Four of the rounds, judging by the markings, were
produced in 1986 by Yuryuzansk Mechanical Plant (Chelyabinsk Region), while the
other two by the Tula Munitions Plan in 1992. While the shelf life of
ammunition is practically unlimited if it is properly stored, such conditions
are difficult to ensure in the criminal world.
According to the experts, the use of ammunition from more
than one manufacturer indicates that it was “collected from all pockets”, in
the words of a Kommersant source. The perpetrators must have had relatively
limited access to ammunition, which is issued
in 50-round packets or 1000-round boxes. Moreover, old ammunition is usually
expended on firing ranges, while newer ammunition is issued in combat or duty.
The killers used a Makarov pistol or, as in the case of Anna
Politkovskaya, an IZh gas pistol converted to shoot live ammunition. The last
weapon is easier to obtain but is also less reliable in use. Investigators
suspect the shooter got rid of the weapon immediately by throwing it into the
In view of the factors indicated above, the investigators
believe that the killers were not professionals, and perhaps did not even know
who their target was.
Moreover, the investigators have found many similarities
between Nemtsov and Politkovskaya killings. In any event, they say that both
were killed immediately prior to specific dates, the March 1 opposition march,
and Putin’s birthday.
Moreover, investigators note that both Nemtsov and
Politkovskaya were observed for a long time until they found themselves in a
location suitable for assassination. In the case of Nemtsov, the contract
killer might have specified that he be killed near the Kremlin.
The Ukrainian trail
The official Investigative Committee representative Vladimir
Markin said, echoing President Putin, that the killing may have been performed as
a provocation aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country.
Moreover, Nemtsov might have become a “sacrificial lamb for those who ignore no
methods in achieving their political objectives.”
According to the Kommersant, the investigators are actively
considering a scenario connecting Nemtsov to the so-called Ukrainian trail. According
to Markin, “the scenario connected with internal Ukrainian developments is
indeed being checked, since there are radical on both sides of the conflict
which do not answer to any authorities.”
The Ukrainian scenario posits that the killers may have been
former militia members who returned from eastern Ukraine to Russia. The
incident which took place in the October of last year in the vicinity of
Moscow, where drunk militiamen killed a traffic police detail, shows that some
of them are indifferent as to their choice of targets. At the same time, the
former DPR head of government Aleksandr Boroday considers this version a “complete
nonsense.” He said that “there is no sense in the killing of Nemtsov by
patriots, since he was a political figure in the ‘90s and not right now.”
Dmitriy Demushkin, the leader of the “Russkiye” nationalist
movement, also said that nationalists were not responsible for Nemtsov’s death.
We should note that Nemtsov, unlike other prominent politicians, was not on the
“shooting list” of BORN, the Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists, which
is right now on trial at the Moscow regional court. However, Aleksey Pershin, the
lawyer of the BORN member Nikita Tikhonov who recently received a life term in
prison, said that Nemtsov might have been of interest to the radicals simply
because of his political status. Moreover, since some of the BORN adherents are
fighting on the Donbass and they perceive Nemtsov as someone who supports their
enemies, they might have had a different view on the matter.
Investigators are also of the opinion that one cannot exclude
the possibility of provocation by other nationalists, including by the banned “Right
Sector” and volunteer detachments fighting on the side of Ukrainian government.
The investigation is headed by Igor Krasnov, the senior
investigator for particularly important cases, who reports directly to
Investigative Committee chairman Aleksandr Bastyrkin. His earlier
investigations include the attempt on the life of Anatoliy Chubais, and the
The Islamic trail
According to Markin, the investigation is actively considering
the Islamic extremist scenario. Nemtsov received threats due to his views on
the Charlie Hebdo case. Nemtsov wrote on his blog that “when the Mufti Council
refers to the work of the Charlie Hebdo journalists as provocation and sin, it
justifies terrorism,” adding that “right now we are witnessing a medieval
Islamic inquisition. In a few centuries Islam will grow up and terrorism will
pass. But we can’t simply sit and do nothing.”
Nemtsov received several threats, and reported them to law
enforcement, but there was no reaction. There could have been a reaction after
the assembly in Groznyy where at the end of January 800 thousand opponents of
Mohammed caricatures had met, all the more so since the organizer of the
assembly was Chechnya president Ramzan Kadyrov who was more than once
criticized by Nemtsov.
Moreover, the so-called “cut-out” gas and pneumatic weapons
were used quite frequently both by radicals and islamists, including by those
who took revenge for publications criticizing the leaders of Northern Caucasus.
Anna Politkovskaya was killed using one of such weapons, and the members of the
GTA [Grand Theft Auto] band which recruited militants for ISIL used such
weapons, which they prepared for training purposes, to carry out a range of killings on roads near Moscow.
Kadyrov, for his part, said that Nemtsov’s murder was
carried out by “Western secret services which are trying to provoke internal
conflict in Russia.” According to Kadyrov, Nemtsov “disliked everything that
was done to rebuild and restore Chechnya. “I was very calm about it and did not
even take interest in his statements. Listening to him, I was reminded of
Salman Raduyev, who felt compelled to comment on everything that was going on
in the world.”
Anna Duritskaya was questioned for 7.5 hours
According to Markin, the investigation will check all
possible conflicts related to his activities as a deputy, business, and
Nemtsov became a deputy in the Yaroslav regional Duma in
2013, and probably his most important clash was with the deputy governor
Aleksandr Senin. Nemtsov turned to the Prosecutor’s General office, claiming
that the governor’s wife is heading the Yartek Medical corporation, which in
turn is rendering services to the regional health care department which is in
the purview of Mr. Senin. Nemtsov argued it was because of such contacts that
Yartek was able to receive 150 state contracts. However, the Prosecutor’s
General office established that the contract covered not medicine, as claimed
Nemtsov, but disposables for hospitals. Senin did not participate in the
activities of the procurement commission, and there was no conflict of
interest. Nevertheless, Nemtsov was able to get the deputies to issue a special
statement to the governor concerning suspicious contracts, and eventually the
governor removed Senin. As he was leaving, Senin promised to sue Nemtsov,
however there is no record of such a suit.
Nothing is known about business conflicts concerning
Nemtsov. There is an old story concerning the recovery of an old debt from the
former head of Rosvooruzheniye, Major General Aleksandr Kotelkin. Already in
2010 the Nikulino district court in Moscow ruled in favor of Nemtsov, ordering
the general to pay the ruble equivalent of $700,000, as well as incurred
interest. Nemtsov earlier gave that money to the general so that he could
develop his own business. Kotelkin promised to return the money within a year,
but failed to do so. Incidentally, Nemtsov agreed to cede the right for the
debt to be recovered to third parties. The third parties, in turn, for some
reason, did not implement the debt recovery procedure.
Concerning personal issues, perhaps Anna Duritskaya knows
something about them, and she spent 7.5 hours testifying. Duritskaya was taken
to the site of the murder to demonstrate how the killer operated. Just in case,
Duritskaya was taken into protective custody which she refused, but
nevertheless she remains under police protection at her apartment. Duritskaya
wants to leave for Kiev to be with her parents as soon as possible.
The Investigative Committee announced on Sunday
that it is seeking new witnesses of the murder, and has placed a reward of 3
million rubles for particularly useful information.