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Who Killed Nemtsov? Chechen Cops or Kremlin Cops?

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Russian officials have charged two men with the killing of Boris Nemtsov, and jailed another three suspects in connection with the murder. All five of these men, frogmarched into a courtroom in Moscow on Sunday, March 8, were ethnic Chechens, reported Reuters. A sixth man wanted in connection with the case apparently blew himself up with a grenade when officers attempted to detain him in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

Zaur Dadayev, the police's primary suspect, has been identified as the former deputy commander of a Chechen police unit in the Interior Ministry. Writing on Instagram, his favorite social media platform, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov described Dadayev as someone known as a “fearless and courageous soldier” and “true patriot of Russia”:

Басманный суд Москвы санкционировал арест Заура Дадаева, подозреваемого в причастности к убийству Бориса Немцова. Я знал Заура, как настоящего патриота России. Он с первых же дней создания полка, входящего в состав 46-го ОБРОН ВВ МВД РФ, служил в нём. Имел звание “лейтенант”. Занимал должность зам. командира батальона. Заур был одним из самых бесстрашных и мужественных военнослужащих полка. Он особенно отличился в бою вблизи Беноя, когда проводилась спецоперация против крупной банды террористов. Награждён орденом Мужества, медалями “За отвагу”, “За заслуги перед ЧР” и Благодарственным письмом Главы ЧР и др. Я твёрдо убеждён, что он искренне предан России, был готов отдать за Родину жизнь. Мне непонятны истинные причины и мотивы увольнения Заура из рядов ВВ МВД России. Говорят, объяснял болезнью матери. СМИ передают, что Заур в суде подтвердил свою причастность к убийству Бориса Немцова. Все, кто знает Заура, утверждают, что он является глубоко верующим человеком, а также, что он, как и все мусульмане, был потрясен действиями Шарли и комментариями в поддержку печатания карикатур. Я поручил секретарю Совбеза ЧР Вахиту Усмаеву провести тщательное расследование обстоятельств увольнения Заура, изучить его поведение, настроение перед уходом со службы. В любом случае, если суд подтвердит вину Дадаева, то, убив человека, он совершил тяжкое преступление. Но хочу снова отметить, что он не мог сделать и шага против России, ради которой многие годы рисковал собственной жизнью. Таким же храбрым воином был и Беслан Шаванов, погибший накануне при попытке задержания. Мы верим, что будет проведено тщательное расследование, которое покажет, действительно ли виновен Дадаев и, что на самом деле послужило причиной его поступка.  #Кадыров #Россия #Чечня #МВД

The Basmanny Court of Moscow sanctioned the arrest of Zaur Dadayev, who is suspected of involvement in the murder of Boris Nemtsov. I knew Zaur as a true patriot of Russia. From the first days of its existence, he served in the 46th Interior Ministry defense unit. He held the rank of “lieutenant,” and served as deputy battalion commander. Zaur was one of the regiment's most fearless and courageous soldiers. He particularly distinguished himself in battle near Benoy, during a special operation against a large group of terrorists. He was awarded the Order of Courage, medals “For Valor” and “For Service to the Chechen Republic,” and letters of thanks from the head of the Chechen Republic and others.

I am firmly convinced that he was sincerely devoted to Russia, and was ready to give his life for the Motherland. I do not know the true reasons and motives for Zaur's dismissal, but I have heard it was because of his mother's illness. The media reported that Zaur confessed to his involvement in the murder of Boris Nemtsov. All who know Zaur can testify that he is a deeply religious man, and that he, like all Muslims, was shocked by the actions of Charlie [Hebdo] and the comments supporting the printing of these cartoons.

I have instructed Vahit Usmaev, the secretary of Chechnya's Security Council, to conduct a thorough investigation into Zaur's dismissal, including an examination of his behavior and mood before leaving the service. In any case, if the court confirms Dadaev's guilt, then he committed a serious crime, having killed a man. But I want to note again that he was incapable of lifting so much as a finger against Russia, a country for which he risked his own life for many years. It can likewise be said that Beslan Shavanov, who died during an attempt to detain him, was a brave warrior. We believe that there will be a thorough investigation that will show whether or not Dadaev was guilty and will determine the reasons for his actions. #Kadyrov #Russia #Chechnya #InteriorMinistry

These comments by Kadyrov helped revive speculation that the murder was an act of Islamic extremism to avenge Nemtsov's support for Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine attacked in January for printing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

This possibility had earlier been among an array of theories floated by Russian officials immediately following Nemtsov's assassination, although there has been no official word yet on what is believed to have motivated Dudayev and his accomplices.

Many influential voices quickly expressed deep skepticism with this emerging speculation, however.  

On Twitter, the popular nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom implied that Kadyrov himself may have been behind Nemtsov's murder:

“There can be no doubt that Nemtsov's murder was organized by Western security services, who are eager to sow internal conflict in Russia in any way possible” – R. A. Kadyrov [an earlier claim made by Kadyrov]

“We aren't ‘Western,’ we are ‘North'!” – Zaur Dadayev, former deputy commander of Chechnya's “North” police battalion.

Prominent members of Russia's political opposition also seem unconvinced.

In a long and emphatic LiveJournal post, Putin critic and former deputy energy minister Vladimir Milov dismissed the “Islamic motive” as “nonsense,” asserting that this “one hundred percent looks like a cover-up.” Milov wrote:

Никакого серьезного мотива убийства чеченцами до сих пор не предъявлено. “Исламский вопрос” – глупость. Немцов всегда очень осторожно высказывался об исламе, когда мы, некоторые его коллеги, состоявшие в одних и тех же с ним оппозиционных организациях, высказывались не в пример жестче – он всегда нас одергивал, говорил, что надо быть толерантными, в том числе и упоминал о том, что у него есть близкие родственники – мусульмане (обойдемся без подробностей). Немцову невозможно пришить “исламофобию”. Вот его пост, написанный по мотивам расстрела редакции Шарли Эбдо – вполне себе травоядный. Хотя не исключено, что именно после этого его поста была отдана команда разрабатывать операцию прикрытия убийства по “исламской тематике”. Никаких конфликтов между Немцовым и мусульманами никогда не было. 

No serious motive for the Chechens to have committed the murder has been presented. The “Islamic motive” is nonsense. Nemtsov was always very respectful about Islam, and when we—some of his colleagues who worked in the same opposition organizations with him—expressed a different attitude, he always pulled us aside, saying that we should be tolerant, and mentioning that some of his close relatives are Muslims (we can go on without details). It is impossible to accuse Nemtsov of “Islamophobia.”

Here is a post that he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, which was really quite mild. Although, it is possible that this post was given to a team to develop an “Islam-themed” cover-up operation for the murder. No conflict between Nemtsov and Muslims has ever existed.

In the post, as well as in an earlier one, Milov elaborates in detail on his belief that there is “almost no doubt that the murder of Boris Nemtsov was organized by the Russian security services.”

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny also seemed unimpressed with the new speculation, tweeting a link to a story claiming Dadayev had been surveilling Nemtsov in Moscow long before the Charlie Hebdo shooting ever happened:

And so, Dadayev started following Nemtsov long before the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo 

Andrey Babushkin, a member of the Kremlin’s advisory council on human rights, then sparked even more controversy by posting a statement on the council's official website on Wednesday, March 4, following his visit to the jail where the five suspects are being held. 

Babushkin told the press, “There are reasons that lead us to believe Zaur Dadayev confessed under torture.” His statement, in part, read:

Дадаев Заур Шарипович сообщил, что в СИЗО к нему относятся хорошо. Его похитили 5 марта, когда он и брат прибыли из Дагестана на территорию Ингушетии. На теле у Дадаева видны множественные телесные повреждения. С 5 по 7 марта (день доставки в ИВС) не кормили, 3-4 раза давали глоток воды. Позвонить после задержания не дали. При задержании обвинения не предъявили. После того, как его доставили в суд для избрания меры пресечения, маску больше не одевали. Ему обещали отпустить его бывшего подчиненного и товарища Юсупова, если он признается в совершении убийства Б.Е. Немцова.

Zaur Dadayev said that he is being treated well in the detention center. He was seized on March 5, when he and his brother crossed from Dagestan into Ingushetia. Multiple injuries are visible on Dadayev's body. Between March 5 and March 7 (the day of his arrival at the detention center), he wasn't fed and was given a sip of water only 3-4 times. He was not given the chance to make a phone call after his arrest. During the arrest, he was not shown the charges. He was forced to wear a mask until his arraignment in Moscow. And he was promised that his former police force subordinate and his friend Yusupov would be released, if he confessed to the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

Russian law enforcement later responded, ominously announcing that Babushkin would soon be questioned over possible “interference” in a criminal case. Late in the evening on March 11, police came to Babushkin's home and the apartment of a journalist from the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, questioning them as witnesses in the investigation, and obligating them to remain in Moscow. Federal authorities say they view their meeting with Dadayev in jail as interference with police work. 

As the battle to define the narrative of Nemtsov's murder continues to unfold in Moscow, it does not appear that the so-called “Islamic motive” version of events has yet gained much traction on the Russian internet.

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