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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 21, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Investigative Committee's Bastrykin Says Nemtsov Murder 'Solved'; But He Let Organizers Get Away
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In an interview with Rossiyaskaya Gazeta, the government paper of record, Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, gave a round-up of his perceived accomplishments in the last year.

His agency's 8,780 employees, including military investigators, have reviewed 4.3 million complaints from citizens and opened up 663,000 criminal cases, of which 500,000 were sent to court. A million trips to the scenes of crimes were made. He did not provide the acquittal rate for cases, nor the number of cases of law-enforcers prosecuted, which is one of the indicators analysts use to see how fair a judicial system is; Bastrykin has been accused by former colleagues of abetting the closure of corruption cases to let officials off the hook.

Bastrykin also said 91.5% of the crimes undertaken by the Investigative Committee are solved, by contrast with 82.5% in 2006 and 89.3% in 2014. Among the high-profile crimes solved, Bastrykin named first of all the case of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, then noted a number of other sensational cases including the murder of the Russian Coca-Cola factory director Dmitry Soshnev and the murder of 78 people, including police officers and soldiers in the North Caucasus Federal District committed by the Taziev gang.

Russian media have run stories all this week saying this claim regarding Nemtsov's case was coming, but in the event, there was only a scant sentence. By "solved," Bastrykin means that five suspects -- all of who have retracted their testimony claiming torture -- have been charged and physical evidence has been produced tying them to the stalking and murder of Nemtsov on the night of February 27, 2015.

But two of the associates of the defendants said to be the organizers of the murder -- Ruslan Geremeyev, leader of the Sever Battalion and his driver, Ruslan Mukhatudinov -- have slipped away, and this is in fact Bastrykin's fault, because he refused -- or was unable -- to pursue them and interrogate and arrest them in the Chechen Republic, and they fled the country.

Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer for the Nemtsov family, disputed the claim that the case was "solved" because the mastermind of the murder had not been named, TV Rain and Novaya Gazeta reported (translated by The Interpreter):

"Bastrykin is either not informed of what is going on, or is deliberately leading people astray. Any criminal expert will tell you that no crime, especially a contract murder, can be considered solved before the contractors and organizers of the murder are established and their motives learned. Neither the contractors or the organizers nor their motives are in the case to date."
Curiously, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the presidential administration, then made a statement today apparently contradicting Bastrykin, TASS reported.

"There is the investigation, the indictment, the defense, and the trial. It is the court that must give consent to whether or not [the murder of Nemtsov] is solved. This does not enter into the prerogative of the Kremlin."
Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of Boris, said that she did not consider the murder of her father to have been solved, Interfax reported.

"Several times, Bastrykin did not sign the order for the charging of Ruslan Geremeyev in absentia. This is what sources I trust say."

Authorities continue to remove the unofficial memorial of flowers and pictures placed at the scene of Nemtsov's murder on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.

Translation:  Once again, the memorial at the site of the murder of Nemtsov has been destroyed.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick