Russia: Nemtsov Murder Trial Begins

A Russian military court began the trial Monday of five people accused of the murder of prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down in the center of Moscow last year.

Boris Nemtsov 2014Boris Nemtsov (Photo: Dharmikatva, CC BY-SA 3.0)The five men, all hailing from Chechnya, have denied responsibility for the killing on the Russian capital’s Bolshoy Moskvorestky Bridge on Feb. 27. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, was scheduled to lead a large opposition rally several days later against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

One of the defendants, Zaur Dadaev, initially confessed but later withdrew his admission. Russia’s human rights commission has said Dadaev likely confessed due to torture.

Prosecutors allege Ruslan Mukhudinov, a former officer in the Chechen Interior Ministry, offered the five men 15 million rubles (US$ 240,590) to kill Nemtsov, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Mukhudinov’s whereabouts are unknown.

“He is currently a wanted man.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest,” Vladimir Yaduta, from the Russian Legal Information Agency, told the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Lawyers for Nemtsov’s family have criticized the trial, saying that authorities failed to pursue leads that could point to the masterminds of his murder.

In a statement posted online Monday, lawyers for Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, said authorities had failed to obtain surveillance footage of the murder, despite it occurring in a heavily monitored part of city near Russia’s seat of government.

The incomplete investigation means that “the organizers of this daring murder 200 meters from the Kremlin have not been found and prosecuted,” the statement said.

“Besides this, the investigation failed to establish a motive for Nemtsov’s murder and failed to establish a motive for the murder of an opposition politician,” it said.