'Hit men' charged with murder of Nemtsov
Two men appeared in court in Moscow yesterday charged with the murder of the Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, after another suspect blew himself up with a grenade as police surrounded him in Chechnya.
Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, both from Russia's troubled North Caucasus region, appeared at the Russian capital's Basmanny Court, where the judge said Mr Dadayev had confessed to the crime under questioning. However, Mr Dadayev did not admit it in court, asking only that he be given a fair trial.
Three other men, Shagid Gubashev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev, were formally arrested as suspected accomplices. Shagid Gubashev is the younger brother of Anzor, according to Tass, the Russian news agency.
All three have reportedly denied any involvement.
The five men were frogmarched into court yesterday, according to a reporter. Television crews were brought in to film them as they stood in metal cages. They were all remanded in custody.
During the hearing, the latter three men tried to hide their faces with their jackets, while Mr Dadayev looked defiantly at the cameras and raised his index finger - a gesture associated with Islamists. No motive for the killing was suggested.
In Chechnya, a sixth suspect, Bislan Shavanov, blew himself up with a grenade as police tried to detain him, Russian media reported. Officers were said to have surrounded him at an apartment in Grozny on Saturday evening, when he was killed by a hand grenade that exploded as he tossed it towards them.
Mr Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, was shot dead as he walked on a bridge near the Kremlin with his girlfriend on February 27.
Opposition activists have laid the blame with the Putin government.
The two accused men were reportedly detained in the republic of Ingushetia, a small republic in Russia's North Caucasus which borders Chechnya.
Officials suggested that they were suspected hit men and that the masterminds behind the murder were still at large. The arrests provoked competing rumours that the accused men could be "fall guys" or killers associated with pro-Moscow authorities.
Aymani Dadayeva, Mr Dadayev's mother, told Russian media that her son served for 10 years in the "North" battalion in Chechnya, an interior ministry unit headed by relatives of Ramzan Kadyrov, the republic's pro-Putin leader.
A statement from Mr Kadyrov's press service in 2010 shows that a Zaur Dadayev serving in interior ministry forces in Chechnya was awarded a bravery medal issued by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's then president.
LifeNews, a news website with links to Russian police and security services, said Mr Gubashev worked as a security guard at a supermarket in the Moscow region.
Several high-profile killings in Russia in recent years have been pinned on men who hail from the North Caucasus region.
Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist and Kremlin critic, was shot dead on President Vladimir Putin's birthday in October 2006.
A Moscow court last year handed down life sentences to two of the five men convicted of her murder - both came from Chechnya.
Mr Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, was shot four times in the back on as he crossed the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge outside the Kremlin with his girlfriend 10 days ago.
The outspoken Kremlin critic had been preparing a report on the Russian government's backing for Ukrainian separatist fighters, which Moscow adamantly denies.
Mr Putin called the killing a provocation. The country's top investigative body had said it was considering several possible motives, including Islamic extremism, and that the killing may be a political tool to target Putin.
Mr Nemtsov's funeral was held on Tuesday, with thousands of mourners queuing to pay their respects. (© Daily Telegraph, London)