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Moscow Court Convicts Five Chechens For Nemtsov's Murder; Relatives Say Masterminds Still At Large


Zaur Dadayev was found guilty of murdering Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Zaur Dadayev was found guilty of murdering Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

MOSCOW - A Russian jury has found five Chechen men guilty in the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, as Nemtsov’s relatives criticized authorities for not identifying the real masterminds of the 2015 murder.

The jury at Moscow's military court issued the verdicts on June 29 after two days of deliberations.

A former deputy prime minister, Nemtsov was a vocal opponent of President Vladimir Putin and a critic of Kremlin-installed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

He was shot in the back while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015, and his death sent chills through Russia’s beleaguered opposition.

After the hearing, defense lawyer Artyom Sarbashev told journalists that all five defendants would appeal the convictions.

Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer representing Nemtsov's family, said his clients were in general agreement with the jury's findings with the jury's findings, but he also criticized authorities.

"They still haven't found any of the persons who ordered the attack or any of the organizers. This is a complete fiasco of course,” he said. “It is completely obvious that the government did not have any intention over these past two years to find the real organizers and instigators."

The five defendants -- Zaur Dadayev, Anzor Gubashev, Shagit Gubashev, Khamzat Bakhayev, and Tamerlain Eskerkhanov – are all from Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. All were charged with carrying out a murder for hire.

Prosecutors said Dadayev, a former soldier in Chechnya's notorious Sever battalion, fired the fatal shots, and Anzor Gubashev drove the getaway vehicle. The other three defendants helped plan the murder and helped the others hide.

Prosecutors said the men committed the crime because they were promised 15 million rubles ($254,000).

All five defendants pleaded not guilty, a position they reaffirmed in their closing statements on June 21.

"Equality and the right to defense have been clearly violated in this case," said Anna Burchieva, a lawyer for Eskerkhanov. "So I believe there is ground for cancellation of this verdict. It is too early to put a full stop here. Because there is still higher court in front of us."

Meanwhile, Russia's Investigative Committee said that a sixth man charged in absentia in a separate criminal case with organizing the killing was being sought by police. He has been identified as Ruslan Mukhudinov, the personal driver of a top military commander of the Sever battalion.

Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov (1959-2015)
Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov (1959-2015)

Nemtsov's family has asserted the murder was ordered by Mukhudinov's boss, Ruslan Germeyev, the deputy commander of Sever.

Investigators told the court that they went to Germeyev's home in Chechnya to question him, "but no one opened the door."

All five defendants pleaded not guilty, a position they reaffirmed in their closing statements on June 21.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it is up to the Investigative Committee to determine if further legal action is required in connection with the case.

"This is not a matter for the Kremlin," Peskov said.

Nemtsov, who was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a critic of the Kremlin-installed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was shot in the back on a Moscow bridge just outside the Kremlin on the night of February 27, 2015.

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Nemtsov's eldest daughter Zhanna Nemtsova, said the trial failed to name the organizers of the crime or their motive. "The case remains unsolved," she wrote in a message posted to her Facebook page.

"The investigators and then the court did everything possible to prevent the establishment of a motive because it was obvious to everyone in Russia, as well as to people in Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world that this was a political murder," Nemtsova said in an interview with VOA.

Nemtsova criticized Putin for not compelling Kadyrov to testify at the trial.

"I suspect that Vladimir Putin knows much more than I do about the circumstances of this murder and that he has a complete picture of it," she said.

The killing of the charismatic and outspoken Nemtsov shocked many Russians, particularly the country's fractured and beleaguered opposition.

Many Kremlin critics and opposition politicians viewed him as a figure with the experience and skill to potentially challenge the Kremlin.

With reporting by the BBC, AP,, VOA, and DW

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