There’s no shortage of suspects. Apr 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 31 • By CATHY YOUNG and VICTOR DAVIDOFF
A month and a half has passed since Boris Nemtsov, the Russian political activist who rose to prominence as a dynamic young reformer in the 1990s and later became one of the fiercest critics of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, was shot dead a few blocks from the Kremlin. The shocking murder, which quickly raised questions about the Putin regime’s culpability, has largely faded from the headlines in the Western press. But in Russia, it has become the center of a real-life crime thriller that hints at conflicts within the power structure—and a battleground of quiet but steadfast resistance to the state.
In the first days after Nemtsov’s murder on February 27, many commentators in the West and in Russia speculated it would remain officially unsolved. Yet the very next week, on March 7 and 8, the authorities announced the arrests of five suspects, initially detained in Chechnya and brought to Moscow; a sixth man, cornered in his apartment, either blew himself up with a hand grenade (the official version) or was killed by the police. The Russian media promptly reported that alleged ringleader Zaur Dadayev had confessed and that his stated motive was Nemtsov’s support for Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine whose editor was murdered, along with 11 others, by Islamists in January for publishing cartoons depicting Muhammad. Later reports said that Dadayev admitted he was promised a payment of 5 million rubles, or about $90,000. Four days after his arrest, Dadayev retracted his confession, claiming he was tortured and threatened; he reportedly confessed again, but proclaimed his innocence in an April 1 court appearance.
One obvious possibility is that Dadayev and his alleged accomplices are designated fall guys—convenient because both the “Chechen connection” and the “Islamic extremism” angle take the focus off Nemtsov’s role as a Kremlin foe. Yet Dadayev makes an odd scapegoat, considering that a trail from him leads to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, the former separatist warlord turned Putin’s man in Chechnya.
Until recently, 30-year-old Dadayev was a lieutenant in the elite Sever (North) battalion of Chechen special forces, regarded as Kadyrov’s personal army; he had been on leave since January and requested a discharge the day after Nemtsov’s death. His immediate superior, Major Ruslan Geremeyev, served directly under battalion chief Alibek Delimkhanov, whose older brother Adam, a deputy premier of Chechnya, has been described by the Chechen pro-separatist website Kavkaz-Center.com as “Kadyrov’s personal executioner.” Wanted by Interpol for the 2009 murder of Chechen military leader and Kadyrov rival Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai, Adam Delimkhanov is also linked to two assassinations of high-profile Kadyrov foes in Moscow. KavkazCenter.com, citing sources inside Chechnya, named him the man behind Nemtsov’s murder several days before the first arrests in the case.
The link is Geremeyev, connected to the Delimkhanovs not only by military service but by kinship—he’s their nephew. Witnesses say that he frequently traveled to Moscow with Dadayev; one of his relatives owns the Moscow apartment where Dadayev stayed and allegedly met with his accomplices. Yet the federal Investigative Committee, which is handling the Nemtsov murder case, has been stymied in its attempts to question Geremeyev. According to news reports, he lay low in his home village in Chechnya under heavy guard by local troops, and later fled to either Dubai or Turkey. The only possible explanation is that he was being protected by Chechen leadership.
Meanwhile, Kadyrov responded to Dadayev’s arrest with a statement praising him as a valiant soldier and a “true patriot of Russia.” He also asserted that even if Dadayev is guilty, he would never have taken any action against Russia’s interests—which can be read as tacit approval of the murder.
Was Nemtsov killed on Kadyrov’s orders? That is the most popular unofficial theory in Russia. It is certainly more credible than a mini-jihad over Nemtsov’s fairly low-key Facebook comments on Charlie Hebdo. (Dadayev’s family says he was not particularly devout and never voiced any anger about the Muhammad cartoons; moreover, investigators believe Dadayev and his accomplices had been watching Nemtsov since September, long before the Paris attack.) But the idea that the “Chechen trail” leads no further than Chechnya seems dubious for many reasons, from Kadyrov’s posture as Putin’s super-loyal vassal to evidence suggesting the complicity of federal security agencies.
Boris Nemtsov, 1959-2015.Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By CATHY YOUNG
If Boris Nemtsov, the Russian statesman and activist killed in Moscow last week, had been a character in a political thriller—and he certainly had the looks and charisma for the part—the script might have been criticized as lacking subtlety. There is the opposition leader gunned down on the eve of a major protest march, shortly after an interview that foreshadows his murder. There is his nemesis, the authoritarian strongman whose foes often turn up dead, vowing to personally oversee the investigation.
Freedom is in danger, from Prague to Budapest.3:41 PM, Feb 20, 2015 • By DALIBOR ROHAC
On his recent trip to Hungary, Vladimir Putin stirred controversy by visiting the monument erected to the memory of the Soviet soldiers who violently crushed the Hungarian ‘counterrevolution’ of 1956.
8:44 AM, Feb 19, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
That is how British defense secretary Michael Fallon describes the threat Putin poses to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As Reuters reports, Fallon made these remarks as:
… his ministry announced the Royal Air Force had escorted two Russian long-range Bear bombers away from the south coast of England the previous day, the second such incident in as many months.
2:30 PM, Feb 9, 2015 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
The 2001 film Conspiracy reconstructs the infamous January 20, 1942, Wannsee conference, during which the following exchange supposedly took place between Rudolf Lange, a Nazi extermination unit commander who liquidated Latvia’s Jewish population of 250,000 in six months, and Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger of the Reich chancellery:
10:41 AM, Jan 28, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
The North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, will visit Moscow in May.
"North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, plans to visit Moscow this May in his first trip abroad since assuming power in 2011, a Kremlin spokesman announced on Wednesday," the New York Times reports.
11:42 PM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
MNSBC's Andrea Mitchell knocked President Obama's description of the world in the State of the Union address as "not close reality":
"I think that on foreign policy, his projection of success against terrorism and against ISIS, in particular, as I said, is not close to reality," said Mitchell.
And the ruble is in free-fall.Dec 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 15 • By CATHY YOUNG
A year ago, Ukraine’s “Euro-maidan” protests, spurred by then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a promised trade agreement with the European Union and rush into the well-paid embrace of Vladimir Putin, began to escalate in Kiev, turning to violent clashes with government forces. A Ukrainian revolution, a Russian land grab, and months of undeclared war later, we still don’t know whether these events signaled the beginning of a revival of Russian power or the beginning of the end of the Putin regime.
2:29 PM, Dec 5, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Charles Lane speculates on just what collapsing oil prices will mean for Russia and Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. This depends, Lane writes:
2:40 PM, Oct 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY GEDMIN
"Even wallpaper has a better memory than human beings," says protagonist Oskar in Guenter Grass's acclaimed 1959 novel, later an academy award winning film, the Tin Drum.
Under Putin, there’s less and less of it.Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By ELLEN BORK
At this writing, it seems that the hundreds of trucks sent by Moscow with supplies for the residents of Eastern Ukraine will be delivered without further incident. For over a week, the long convoy wended its way toward the Ukrainian border, carrying with it the prospect for a spike in tensions between Moscow and Kiev. Concerns over the trucks’ contents—were they humanitarian supplies, or was the convoy a Trojan Horse, filled with weapons and munitions?—have been resolved.
2:40 PM, Jul 18, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
No columnist rivals Matthew Continetti's ability to contrast so starkly the president's exalted self-image with his actual smallness on the world stage. This morning's installment of his weekly Free Beacon column is perhaps the best example yet.