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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 16, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Latest Developments in the Nemtsov Murder Investigation - Change to 'Hate Crime'
7 years
Pro-Kiev Chechen Commander Denies Allegations of Involvement in Nemtsov Murder Plot
If the FSB and Kadyrov Are Clashing Over the Nemtsov Murder, Who's Winning?

There's been a number of turns in the Nemtsov murder investigation today. As Interfax reported, law-enforcers have "corrected" the charges from one that would support the thesis of a contract murder, to one that would constitute a hate crime.

That means they can develop their theory that the suspects "acted alone," first leaked by anonymous investigators on March 10.

Interfax cited "a source close to the investigation" about today's change (translation by The Intepreter):

The charge against the suspects was made under Art. 105, part 2, pars. zh and l of the Criminal Code: crimes committed by a group of persons by preliminary conspiracy or an organized group from the motives of political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred.

At the arraignment last week, two of the suspects were charged under Art. 105, part 2, but different paragraphs -- zh and z -- which is "from mercenary motives or on contract."

Authorities had nothing more to say about possible contractors, or a possible foreign connection which could have involved a Chechen abroad, based on contacts found among the suspects last week.

Now that the "contract" part of the case is dropped with the articles related to mercenary motives or an actual hire, authorities are free to focus only on the 6 Chechens they've captured, and not worry about other theories of who might have masterminded the murder.

The other sections of Art. 105 are capacious enough that prosecutors can decide to stick with the theory the suspects are devout Muslims angered by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, or pick a political or ideological motive, i.e. their hatred of "fifth columnists."

Last week, the independent Novaya Gazeta published a sensational article implicating relatives of the Delimkhanovs, a powerful Chechen family, in the murder, although no sources were cited and complete names were not published. Adam Delikhanov is a senator in the Federation Council and Alimbek Delikhanov is the head of the Sever Battalion where both Nemtsov murder suspects Dadayev and Beslanov Shavanov served.

Novaya also implicated a certain "Ruslan" who is believed to be Ruslan Geremeyev, the nephew of Senator Adam Delimkhanov and also Senator Suleyman Geremeyev. Ruslan was decorated in 2010 at the same ceremony as Zaur Dadayev and the name is published on a government website.

That article also published the claim that Putin received a report that Kadyrov maintained a "hit list" of liberal Russian opposition figures and journalists, which has now led some to go abroad temporarily.

On March 12, Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov announced that he was suspending the print edition and the future of the online version was uncertain; he mentioned that one shareholder was "trying to put him out of business." Both Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and oligarch Alexander Lebedev have shares in Novaya.

As we reported, a new suspect, Khamzat Bakhayev was charged today along with Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, who says he has an alibi. A seventh, Beslan Shavanov died in a grenade explosion as police came to his door.

Dadayev's lawyer announced today that he has an alibi as well.

Translation: Dadayev's lawyer: "Dadayev has an alibi, but we are not announcing it for now to either the investigation or the prosecution," he announced to everyone. Have you understood something?

RBC.ru reported that he had evidence that Dadayev was not on the bridge where Nemtsov was murdered at the time of the crime, but at another location.

Two other suspects have also claimed alibis; the lawyer of Tamerlan Eskherkhanov says a video surveillance camera at his workplace, at least 15 minutes' drive away from the scene of the murder shows that he was at work on the night of February 27. The wife of Bakhayev can provide an alibi for him, said his lawyer.

There is one indication that the "mastermind" concept has not been dropped however -- Kadyrov is keeping Ruslan Geremeyev under guard by Chechen police.

 Other than that, the case is following a well-established pattern -- and with lightning speed -- whereby Chechen suspects who may or may not have been contract killers are the only ones found in the investigation and the masterminds are never implicated.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick