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

The theory that Nemtsov's murder was the result of clashes between the Federal Security Service and the forces of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is one the Russian media has been discussing. We outlined it in an article for The Daily Beast, Putin's Usual Suspects: The Bullshit Chechen-Charlie Hebdo Connection

Now Zaur Dadayev, a man whom Kadyrov has himself identified as a trusted and decorated soldier in his special brigade “available for any assignment given the order,” is said to be both the perpetrator and organizer of the murder. Dadayev is said to be tied directly to the murder through surveillance camera and DNA evidence. The others arrested are Chechens who are always the usual suspects rounded up in such cases. Will Putin overlook once again the involvement of Kadyrov in a high-profile murder in Russia? Or will he continue to tolerate Kadyrov as an enforcer who gives the Russian president “plausible deniability” in these cases?

Last week, President Putin awarded Kadyrov the Order of Honor "for professional successes, active civic activity and many years of conscientious work," even after Kadyrov praised the murder suspects as "brave warriors." That suggested that any "war" was now won -- until Putin went missing for 10 days when the rumors sparked up again.

It's important to remember that Putin's administration has made a number of runs at Chechen murder suspects -- and failed spectacularly.

In May 13, The Interpreter published a translation of an investigative piece by Novaya Gazeta which concerned the frustration and anger of Moscow law-enforcers who captured Chechen murder suspects -- only to see them later released under mysterious circumstances.

Then in December 2013 we translated another piece, "Bastrykin's Humiliation," about a special cases investigator named Sergei Bobkov who was sent to clean up some corruption and unsolved murder cases in Grozny -- only to end up suddenly leaving on vacation "to spend more time with his family" as soon as he started making arrests.

These pieces suggest that Putin was not coping with his supposed mission of curbing the excesses of Kadyrov -- or that he might be undoing the work of others in the Investigative Committee or intelligence -- except he himself signed the decree to appoint Bobkov.

Grigory Shvedov, the journalist who runs the regional news site Caucasian Knot gave an interview to Anna Nemtsov for Foreign Policy in which he noted that two other killings involve Chechens named "Dadayev" who might be relatives:

Russian lawmaker Ruslan Yamadayev was gunned down in the center of Moscow in 2008; that same year a Chechen oppositionist, Umar Israilov, was assassinated in Vienna. The killings of Nemtsov, Yamadayev, and Israilov all had the “same handwriting,” Shvedov said. Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of the Kremlin’s policies. Yamadayev had a long history of tense relations with Kadyrov. And shortly before his murder Israilov filed a complaint in an international court of human rights charging Kadyrov with direct responsibility for acts of murder and torture. A Moscow court ultimately found Aslanbek Dadayev guilty of Yamadayev’s murder, sentencing him to 15 years in prison. In 2009, a Viennese court sentenced three Chechens to life terms in jail for the killing of Israilov — and one of them was a man named Suleiman Dadayev.

There is no evidence provided that Zaur Dadayev is related to the other killers named Dadayev, or that the familial relations between Dadayev's commander and the Delimkhanov family are proof of guilt, as the Russian press assumes.

On the other hand, Chechnya is a small republic of 1.2 million people with very close-knit ties and extended families in villages based on the teip or clan. These clans can be based on blood ties or geographical location. Since the disruption of the wars of the 1990s, in which 200,000 were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee to Russia, or other countries in Eurasia or Europe, the teip system has weakened and it is no longer the marker it once was for political relationships.

The Russian media has not researched the teip to which Dadayev and the other defendants belonged, but law-enforcement officials in Ingushetia, a North Caucasus republic neighboring Chechnya, said that all the suspects came from Ingushetia -- not uncommon as many Chechens were forced to flee to Ingushetia during the wars.  All the suspects are said to have come originally from the town of Voznesensky, Malgobeksiy District in Ingushetia and moved to Chechnya or Moscow later.

One of the key pieces of information in the investigation aside from video surveillance tapes and cell phone records is the testimony of Dadayev's sister, who said that her brother left for Moscow, with his commander, Alimbek Delimkhanov before the murder.

If Dadayev and the others are related to the Dadayev sentenced for other murders, they might wish to seek revenge under the rules of the teip against figures associated with the imprisonment of their relatives.

But then it's not clear how Nemtsov relates to any of this at all.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick