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    March 2, 2015

    "Man on the Bridge"--The Comprehensive Guide to the Nemtsov Murder Investigation


    By Nikolai Sergeyev, Oleg Rubnikovich, and Vladislav Trifonov

    Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

    How the Nemtsov murder investigation is progressing

    Nemtsov was shot on Friday night in the very center of Moscow. The investigators immediately classified his murder as a contract killing, however, there are so many possible scenarios that none of them can be classified as the favorite one. The only thing of which the investigators are certain is that the killers were not professionals. In any event, they used an unreliable weapon and ammunition more than 20 years old, and they moreover left alive the main witness of the murder.

    “The most important crime”

    According to Kommersant, the Nemtsov killing was classified as the most important crime of February 27. The emergency dispatcher received several simultaneous calls around 22:35 concerning a “gunfire wound” on the Moskvoretskiy bridge. The first police detail arrived at the scene within 10 minutes and found Nemtsov’s corpse whose death, as is indicated in the documents, took place within the last half hour.

    The eyewitnesses include Nemtsov’s girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, a photo model, and several passers-by. However, their testimony revealed little. According to Kommersant’s sources, Duritskaya indicated that she met with Nemtsov in Bosco Café at the GUM, and after supper they walked a little around the Red Square, then went on foot toward Nemtsov’s apartment, located at Malaya Ordynka 3.

    The two barely walked 100m along the bridge when they were approached by someone who shot Nemtsov in the back. The killer left the scene in a white car, in which he occupied the front passenger seat.

    The police was not able to find the car or the perpetrators. Duritskaya, being in shock, was not able to indicate even the car’s make. Video recordings of the event were either blurry or non-existent, since several cameras were turned off for repairs. Police put out a bulletin for a white Ford, Kia Rio, and VAZ-2110. All of these cars were found, but it turned out their owners had nothing to do with the crime. On Saturday the investigators took an interest in another vehicle, a Lada Priora with Ingushetia registration. It was found next to the Smolenskaya metro station. The Lada was used by two Ingush who also turned out to have no connection to the killing. Moreover, on Sunday the traffic police with special reinforcements were searching red sedans on the roads exiting Moscow.

    The moment of the killing was filmed from afar by a TVTs TV channel camera. Judging by its recording, the murder took place at 23:31.

    Judging by the recording, we can assume the killer was awaiting his victim on a side stairway leading to the bridge from which, probably after receiving a signal from a partner, he got up to the bridge and opened fire at Nemtsov.

    Old ammunition again in use

    The experts have determined that Nemtsov was struck by four out of 6 bullets fired. One wound, to the heart, proved lethal. The shooter did not leave the gun behind, and the spent casings raise questions. All of the casings belong to 9mm ammunition, but were manufactured at different times and by different manufacturers. Four of the rounds, judging by the markings, were produced in 1986 by Yuryuzansk Mechanical Plant (Chelyabinsk Region), while the other two by the Tula Munitions Plan in 1992. While the shelf life of ammunition is practically unlimited if it is properly stored, such conditions are difficult to ensure in the criminal world.

    According to the experts, the use of ammunition from more than one manufacturer indicates that it was “collected from all pockets”, in the words of a Kommersant source. The perpetrators must have had relatively limited access  to ammunition, which is issued in 50-round packets or 1000-round boxes. Moreover, old ammunition is usually expended on firing ranges, while newer ammunition is issued in combat or duty.

    The killers used a Makarov pistol or, as in the case of Anna Politkovskaya, an IZh gas pistol converted to shoot live ammunition. The last weapon is easier to obtain but is also less reliable in use. Investigators suspect the shooter got rid of the weapon immediately by throwing it into the river.

    In view of the factors indicated above, the investigators believe that the killers were not professionals, and perhaps did not even know who their target was.

    Moreover, the investigators have found many similarities between Nemtsov and Politkovskaya killings. In any event, they say that both were killed immediately prior to specific dates, the March 1 opposition march, and Putin’s birthday.

    Moreover, investigators note that both Nemtsov and Politkovskaya were observed for a long time until they found themselves in a location suitable for assassination. In the case of Nemtsov, the contract killer might have specified that he be killed near the Kremlin.

    The Ukrainian trail

    The official Investigative Committee representative Vladimir Markin said, echoing President Putin, that the killing may have been performed as a provocation aimed at destabilizing the political situation in the country. Moreover, Nemtsov might have become a “sacrificial lamb for those who ignore no methods in achieving their political objectives.”

    According to the Kommersant, the investigators are actively considering a scenario connecting Nemtsov to the so-called Ukrainian trail. According to Markin, “the scenario connected with internal Ukrainian developments is indeed being checked, since there are radical on both sides of the conflict which do not answer to any authorities.”

    The Ukrainian scenario posits that the killers may have been former militia members who returned from eastern Ukraine to Russia. The incident which took place in the October of last year in the vicinity of Moscow, where drunk militiamen killed a traffic police detail, shows that some of them are indifferent as to their choice of targets. At the same time, the former DPR head of government Aleksandr Boroday considers this version a “complete nonsense.” He said that “there is no sense in the killing of Nemtsov by patriots, since he was a political figure in the ‘90s and not right now.”

    Dmitriy Demushkin, the leader of the “Russkiye” nationalist movement, also said that nationalists were not responsible for Nemtsov’s death. We should note that Nemtsov, unlike other prominent politicians, was not on the “shooting list” of BORN, the Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists, which is right now on trial at the Moscow regional court. However, Aleksey Pershin, the lawyer of the BORN member Nikita Tikhonov who recently received a life term in prison, said that Nemtsov might have been of interest to the radicals simply because of his political status. Moreover, since some of the BORN adherents are fighting on the Donbass and they perceive Nemtsov as someone who supports their enemies, they might have had a different view on the matter.

    Investigators are also of the opinion that one cannot exclude the possibility of provocation by other nationalists, including by the banned “Right Sector” and volunteer detachments fighting on the side of Ukrainian government.

    The investigation is headed by Igor Krasnov, the senior investigator for particularly important cases, who reports directly to Investigative Committee chairman Aleksandr Bastyrkin. His earlier investigations include the attempt on the life of Anatoliy Chubais, and the BORN case.

    The Islamic trail

    According to Markin, the investigation is actively considering the Islamic extremist scenario. Nemtsov received threats due to his views on the Charlie Hebdo case. Nemtsov wrote on his blog that “when the Mufti Council refers to the work of the Charlie Hebdo journalists as provocation and sin, it justifies terrorism,” adding that “right now we are witnessing a medieval Islamic inquisition. In a few centuries Islam will grow up and terrorism will pass. But we can’t simply sit and do nothing.”

    Nemtsov received several threats, and reported them to law enforcement, but there was no reaction. There could have been a reaction after the assembly in Groznyy where at the end of January 800 thousand opponents of Mohammed caricatures had met, all the more so since the organizer of the assembly was Chechnya president Ramzan Kadyrov who was more than once criticized by Nemtsov.

    Moreover, the so-called “cut-out” gas and pneumatic weapons were used quite frequently both by radicals and islamists, including by those who took revenge for publications criticizing the leaders of Northern Caucasus. Anna Politkovskaya was killed using one of such weapons, and the members of the GTA [Grand Theft Auto] band which recruited militants for ISIL used such weapons, which they prepared for training purposes, to carry out a range of killings on roads near Moscow.

    Kadyrov, for his part, said that Nemtsov’s murder was carried out by “Western secret services which are trying to provoke internal conflict in Russia.” According to Kadyrov, Nemtsov “disliked everything that was done to rebuild and restore Chechnya. “I was very calm about it and did not even take interest in his statements. Listening to him, I was reminded of Salman Raduyev, who felt compelled to comment on everything that was going on in the world.”

    Anna Duritskaya was questioned for 7.5 hours 

    According to Markin, the investigation will check all possible conflicts related to his activities as a deputy, business, and personal relations.

    Nemtsov became a deputy in the Yaroslav regional Duma in 2013, and probably his most important clash was with the deputy governor Aleksandr Senin. Nemtsov turned to the Prosecutor’s General office, claiming that the governor’s wife is heading the Yartek Medical corporation, which in turn is rendering services to the regional health care department which is in the purview of Mr. Senin. Nemtsov argued it was because of such contacts that Yartek was able to receive 150 state contracts. However, the Prosecutor’s General office established that the contract covered not medicine, as claimed Nemtsov, but disposables for hospitals. Senin did not participate in the activities of the procurement commission, and there was no conflict of interest. Nevertheless, Nemtsov was able to get the deputies to issue a special statement to the governor concerning suspicious contracts, and eventually the governor removed Senin. As he was leaving, Senin promised to sue Nemtsov, however there is no record of such a suit.

    Nothing is known about business conflicts concerning Nemtsov. There is an old story concerning the recovery of an old debt from the former head of Rosvooruzheniye, Major General Aleksandr Kotelkin. Already in 2010 the Nikulino district court in Moscow ruled in favor of Nemtsov, ordering the general to pay the ruble equivalent of $700,000, as well as incurred interest. Nemtsov earlier gave that money to the general so that he could develop his own business. Kotelkin promised to return the money within a year, but failed to do so. Incidentally, Nemtsov agreed to cede the right for the debt to be recovered to third parties. The third parties, in turn, for some reason, did not implement the debt recovery procedure.

    Concerning personal issues, perhaps Anna Duritskaya knows something about them, and she spent 7.5 hours testifying. Duritskaya was taken to the site of the murder to demonstrate how the killer operated. Just in case, Duritskaya was taken into protective custody which she refused, but nevertheless she remains under police protection at her apartment. Duritskaya wants to leave for Kiev to be with her parents as soon as possible.

    The Investigative Committee announced on Sunday that it is seeking new witnesses of the murder, and has placed a reward of 3 million rubles for particularly useful information.
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