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EU Lawmakers Call For International Probe Into Nemtsov's Assassination

  • RFE/RL

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, near her father's grave during a burial ceremony at Moscow's Troekurovskoye cemetery on March 3

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, near her father's grave during a burial ceremony at Moscow's Troekurovskoye cemetery on March 3

Members of the European Parliament have called for an independent international investigation into the killing of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

In a scathing March 12 resolution, the European lawmakers called the assassination of Nemtsov the “most significant political murder in recent Russian history” and warned that Kremlin propaganda is turning Russia into a “state of repression, hate speech, and fear.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman scoffed at the resolution, suggesting Russia's own investigation is sufficient, the Associated Press reported.

"Here is Russia and we are going to continue an investigation that is being conducted by the organs and special services and law enforcement that are envisaged by Russian legislation," Peskov told AP on March 12, speaking in English.

The resolution came as Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Kremlin human rights council, was questioned by Russian investigators after visiting Zaur Dadayev and two other suspects held in pretrial detention at Moscow’s Lefortovo jail.

Babushkin said after his March 11 visit that there were signs Dadayev was tortured into making a confession and that he had seen “numerous wounds” on Dadayev’s body.

Babushkin also said officers from Russia’s Investigative Committee told him that he may no longer visit suspects in the case because he is a witness.

Yeva Merkachyova, a journalist with the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) who visited the suspects with Babushkin, was also questioned as a witness, MK reported.

The newspaper said Merkachyova signed a pledge not to reveal information about the case but was not told she was barred from visiting the suspects.

Zaur Dadayev

Zaur Dadayev

On March 11, MK published a report based on her visit that quoted Dadayev as saying he had confessed because he was told a man detained with him would be released if he did so and suggesting he feared he would be killed if he did not confess.

The report also quoted another suspect as saying he had been "tortured."

Dadayev, a former police officer in the volatile Chechnya region, is one of five suspects in custody over the fatal shooting of Nemtsov, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, near the Kremlin on February 27.

Moscow's Basmanny District Court said on March 12 that Dadayev's lawyer had filed an appeal against his client's pretrial detention on March 11.

At an arraignment hearing on March 8, the judge said that Dadayev had confessed to involvement in Nemtsov's slaying, but he did not admit guilt in the courtroom.

Andrei Babushkin

Andrei Babushkin

Babushkin is a member of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, an advisory body whose members meet occasionally with Putin.

He said investigators asked him about the whereabouts of the journalist, Yeva Merkachyova, and told him they went to her home in hopes of questioning her but did not find her there.

The Investigative Committee said March 11 that Babushkin and Merkachyova had violated the law by revealing details about their meetings with the suspects and could face prosecution.

Nemtsov, 55, was hit by four bullets to the back as he walked across a bridge just off Moscow's Red Square with his Ukrainian girlfriend shortly before midnight.

The most prominent politician killed in Russia since the 1990s, Nemtsov had led protests, published reports alleging corruption among allies of Putin, and vocally opposed Moscow's support for separatists whose conflict with government forces has killed more than 6,000 people in eastern Ukraine.

His killing underscored the risks run by Russians who challenge the government and drew calls from the West for a thorough investigation -- something former colleagues of Nemtsov fear will not take place because it could lead too close to the Kremlin.

Nemtsov’s eldest daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, told the BBC on March 12 that Putin was "politically" to blame for her father's death.

Speaking from Italy, Nemtsova, 30, said that her father was "a critic of Putin, he fought with Putin, with nobody else."

"After his death, the opposition is beheaded and everybody is frightened," she said.

The Investigative Committee said on February 28 that one possible motive for Nemtsov's killing could have been anger over his position on the deadly Islamist militant attack in January on Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine that published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, defended Dadayev in a statement posted on Instagram on March 8, calling him a "true patriot" and a deeply pious Muslim who was shocked by the cartoons.

Lawyers and allies of Nemtsov have said they do not believe that anger over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons or Nemtsov's position on the issue was the motive in his killing.

With reporting by Reuters, BBC, AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax