Did Putin order the killing of Boris Nemtsov?


Often what happens in Moscow affects Ukraine. When Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was killed in central Moscow on the night of February 27th, the Ukrainian government lost one of its most vocal advocates in its war with Russia and Russian-backed proxies. Shortly before his death, Nemtsov had said he planned to publish damning evidence of the regular Russian army’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, something the Kremlin had always denied. Nemtsov was also planning to lead an opposition demonstration in Moscow within a few days to protest the war in Ukraine.

Nemtsov's Funeral (Photo: Reuters)

Nemtsov’s Funeral (Reuters)

Nemtsov’s murder has generated several theories in press and media over who carried out the killing, on whose orders, and why. A new article written by Nikolai Kopash and published on the Russian-language ‘Analytical Investigations’ website (entitled ‘By whom, how and why Boris Nemtsov was murdered’) delves into known details of the murder to reach a credible conclusion as to who did it and why. However, unlike most other published analyses (See: Analysis: Who’s turned against Putin – and why), the article does not attempt to deflect blame for the killing away from the Russian president himself. In fact, it concludes that the most likely explanation – given all we know – is that Putin ordered the murder. Putin delegated the task of liquidating Nemtsov to his Chechen ‘gauleiter,’ Ramzan Kadyrov, and Kadyrov in turn ordered his cousin, Adam Delimkhanov, to actually carry out the killing. Indeed, another post on this site (linked to an article from an anonymous author) tagged Delimkhanov as the killer very early after Nemtsov’s death.

Adam Delimkhanov

Adam Delimkhanov

As many people may be aware, the immediate vicinity of Nemtsov’s killing was captured on video from a distance, at the actual time the victim was shot. The surveillance camera, filming at night, did not offer high-resolution imagery, but the video was posted on YouTube and has been analyzed often, with a white circle superimposed on the footage to identify the location of the victim as he walked along before being shot. The time is also visible in ‘hour:minute:second’ format. From this, it looks as if Nemtsov was concealed from the camera and the street by a street-cleaning truck at the exact time of the shooting, and for the first time we are presented with the possibility that the street-cleaner was part of the plot. As the author writes:

In the recording at 23:30:30 one can see how a white circle focuses attention on Nemtsov and his companion [identified as Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya – Ed.], who is in a white (!) coat… At the same time we see that a street-cleaning vehicle comes onto the bridge… how it moves to catch up with the victim… and conceals the crime from passers-by… Then the circle focuses directly on the street cleaner, and if you look closely, in the time interval from 23:30:40 to 23:30:55 a man (the killer) is walking in front of the truck but then hides behind it. The speed of the street cleaner is about 9 km/h, a very fast pace for a man, indicating that his movement is intentionally aligned with the vehicle so that he cannot be seen from the roadway.

Once the street cleaner catches up to Nemtsov and his companion at 23:31:14, just in front of the pole of the streetlight, the killer allegedly delivers 6 shots in 2 seconds, and at 23:31:16 he is already moving quickly out onto the roadway to meet a passenger car that is driving up (23:31:20). After another 3 seconds (23:31:23), the car leaves with the killer. This pickup car was traveling at the speed of the street cleaner, behind it at a distance of exactly three streetlamps (75 meters)…

The detailed analysis of moment-by-moment events captured on the video surveillance camera of the TV Center television station concludes that several different people were involved in the hit on Nemtsov. This was not simply a case of an assassin and his driver. Rather, several vehicles and pedestrians took part in both the killing and the immediate aftermath, verifying the victim’s death and monitoring the immediate vicinity. The post-shooting timeline is as follows:

23:31:48: A person (Person 1) is clearly visible walking toward the crime scene from the right.

23:32:10: Anna Duritskaya runs to the street-cleaner and talks with the driver for about 3.5 minutes.

23:32:50: Person 1 stops at Nemtsov’s body.

23:33:07: Person 1 walks toward Duritskaya and the street-cleaning truck.

23:33:30: A second person (Person 2) appears from the left side – from which there has not been a single passer-by in all this time.

23:33:50: Person 1 has returned to the body of Nemtsov, and Person 2 approaches the street-cleaner.

23:34: 30: A third person (Person 3) walks past the crime spot without even slowing down.

23:35:30: A passenger car (Car 1) stops for 10 seconds behind the street cleaner.

23:35:30: Duritskaya returns from the street cleaner to Nemtsov’s body with Person 2, and Car 1 departs the scene.

23:36:06: The street-sweeper quickly departs from the scene of the crime without continuing to clean the street.

23:37:00: Another two people (Persons 4 and 5) approach the crime scene from the right, and a passenger car (Car 2) drives past before braking sharply after forty meters, then reversing quickly back to the crime scene.

23:37:20: Car 2 stops back at the crime scene, and Persons 4 and 5 move away from Nemtsov’s body with Duritskaya, as if they have been ordered to move out of the light of the street lamp.

23:37:40: Another car (Car 3) slows down for 5 seconds near Car 2, and someone in Car 2 obviously gives a command to drive off, as both cars depart the scene of the crime simultaneously. The image of Duritskaya with Persons 4 and 5 is lost.

23:42:30: After fast-forwarding the video, one can see Duritskaya with Persons 4 and 5 standing eighteen meters from the crime scene, and a police car is pulling up as Duritskaya returns to the body with Persons 4 and 5.

Anna Duritskaya (Photo: AP)

Anna Duritskaya (AP)

From the twelve-minute chronology, we can deduce that apart from Persons 1-5, there were the drivers of Cars 1-3, the killer, the driver of the getaway car, and the driver of the street-cleaning truck. This means that there were at least eleven people at the crime scene at or around the time of the shooting, not including Duritskaya (whom the author does not exclude from complicity) and whoever else may have been in the various vehicles. In other words, the author concludes, this was an ‘operation’ involving a substantial number of ‘not random people.’ It suggests – he believes – ‘excellent teamwork in a security services operation.’ He also credits the professionals with having completely hidden the murder from both the video camera and the street using the street-cleaner. Even if only half the minimum number of people verifiable at the crime scene were in on the plot, that would be half a dozen, and the analyst believes that ‘trained commandos’ had a hand in the crime.

The author’s conclusions are based on a number of clues related to the victim’s wounds.

In the official version, the murderer put 6 bullets into the victim. Analysis of the timing suggests that the killer had only 2 seconds, and this fact – 6 shots in 2 seconds – has caused a lot of doubts and assumptions to the effect that not one person, but two fired shots (the second later, as a control shot to make sure the victim was dead).

Nemtsov's Bullet Wounds

Nemtsov’s Wounds

The author refutes the idea that one person couldn’t have fired 6 shots in 2 seconds, even though he admits that special military ‘commando’ training would not account for it. Such shooting, he asserts, is used ‘in very rare cases,’ and ‘mainly in the personal protection of VIPs.’

A more likely explanation, he says, is that the killer did not use a common type of Russian pistol – a Makarov – as the official version of events alleges. Rather, the killer used a Stechkin automatic pistol (APS), which shoots like a sub-machine gun and is only employed by the security services. The Makarov fires only 5 shots per second, whereas the APS can fire 10.

Makarov Pistol

Makarov Pistol

By all the rules, the shots should have been to the head. First, they said that one shot was to the head, but then… it was a fatal wound to the heart. In the photo one can see that there are three entry bullet holes in the victim’s back, but not in the area of the heart… Judging by the injuries, the shots were fired from the left side and from a short distance, about 2 meters. The short time of 2 seconds made it impossible to aim… This shooting without aiming, combined with the short distance, makes it impossible to immediately fire at two parts of the body – head and back. Therefore, the shooting of all 6 bullets could only be in the back, but not the head.

Furthermore, the nature of the wounds indicate that a Makarov would probably not have passed all the way through the body, as they did in Nemtsov’s case:

Stechkin Automatic Pistol with rifle stock attacked

Stechkin Automatic Pistol with rifle stock attacked

In the photo it can be seen that the bullets passed from the top of the left shoulder, and then horizontally to the area of ​​the waist… Bullets fired from a Makarov pistol rarely cause injuries that pass straight through, because they have a relatively low initial velocity and fairly high caliber. In other words, they have great stopping – as opposed to penetrative – power. But those same bullets fired from a Stechkin automatic pistol have a higher initial velocity, and that means they already have a greater penetrative capacity and likelihood of inflicting pass-through wounds. Thus, according to two factors – the rate of fire and the exit wounds – it is much more likely that an APS was used than a Makarov.

These facts point to a very well planned, criminal ‘special op,’ the author says, with the only mishap being that the street cleaner forgot what it was supposed to do and abandoned its job. The author attributes such expertise to a ‘group of professionals operating at the level of the special units of illegal intelligence agencies such as ‘Vympel,’ which was designed to eliminate not only strategically important targets, but also very important actors in foreign countries in the event of armed conflict.’

The author cites brief information from the Kavkaz Center:

“Kavkaz Center 03.03.2015 – 03:57 Twitter

Kadyrov and Delimkhanov

Kadyrov and Delimkhanov

“Putin personally delegated the task of Nemtsov’s liquidation to Kadyrov, who in turn personally gave the order to his cousin, Adam Delimkhanov… In addition, there is information that the killer who actually did the shooting was Adam Delimkhanov.”

Adam Delimkhanov, the former driver of the terrorist Salman Raduyev, is now a member of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament – the State Duma – and a leading member of the ruling ‘United Russia’ party. He is said to have extensive experience in contract killings.

So, on 18 November 2006 Delimkhanov took part in a police operation during which the former commander of the ‘Gorets’ (Highlander) battle group, Movladi Baisarov, was killed in Moscow.

In April 2008, in an interview with ‘Rosbalt,’ Delimkhanov accused the Yamadayev brothers of having ties with Boris Berezovsky and promised that Yamadayev ‘doesn’t have much time left to soil the good name of the Chechen people.’

Ruslan Yamadayev

Ruslan Yamadayev

Five months passed, and on 24 September 2008 in the area of ​house № 10 on the Smolensk Embankment in Moscow, a few hundred meters from the White House [the building of the Cabinet of Ministers – Ed.] in a specially protected area, Ruslan Yamadayev was killed. When Yamadayev’s ‘Mercedes’ had stopped at a traffic light, a killer emerged from a BMW 525 and, walking up to Yamadayev, opened fire on him through an open window with a silenced Stechkin automatic pistol. In total, about 20 bullets were released, virtually the entire clip. The organization and execution of this murder is also credited to Delimkhanov.

Sulim Yamadayev (L) and Kadyrov

Sulim Yamadayev (L) and Kadyrov

Six months later, on 28 March 2009, in the garage of an elite residential complex in Dubai, Sulim Yamadayev, the former commander of the GRU’s ‘Vostok’ (East) Battalion, was killed by three shots to the back from an APS.

On 5 April 2009, the Dubai police announced that they had arrested the two direct participants in the assassination of Yamadayev, and three citizens of the Russian Federation – including Adam Delimkhanov – were now on the international wanted list.

On 6 April, the Dubai police posted on their website a photo of the weapon that the prisoners had in their possession. It was a gold-plated Stechkin automatic pistol. The police had evidence that Adam Delimkhanov – using his diplomatic immunity – had imported the APS into the Emirates during one of the visits of the Chechen delegation, and had given it to the ‘groom’ of Kadyrov. The Russian authorities do not deny these statements.

Gold-Plated Stechkin APS

Gold-Plated Stechkin APS

Another fact: on 3 December 2013 in the State Duma there was a conflict between Delimkhanov and his colleague, MP Alexei Zhuravlev. According to the words of eyewitnesses, during the fight Delimkhanov’s gold APS fell out.

As the author explains, all of this evidence is circumstantial, but there are at least candid examples, such as an Instagram post by Aslanbek Delimkhanov, Adam’s brother, which was later deleted:

Instagram post: 'Even Agent 007 doesn't do his job as well as MY DEAR BROTHER ADAM!'

Instagram post: ‘Even Agent 007 doesn’t do his job as well as MY DEAR BROTHER ADAM!’

But in general, writes the author, these facts ‘fit fully and without contradiction into the overall picture of the crime.’

Incidentally, we should not expect the subsequent death of the killer, but rather his reward and promotion… It is only surprising that the contract killers did not care about the fact that the video from the TV Center would be published. One might think that the blurred picture would not provide important information. Or, as mentioned above, they were simply unaware of the existence of this device or for some prosaic reasons it just fell out of their zone of ​​attention.

With regard to motives, the analyst says Putin’s motives for eliminating Nemtsov were ‘both personal and public’ in nature.

On a personal note, Boris Nemtsov had insulted Putin a few times, calling him a total loser… and a ‘fuckhead.’ For a godfather, such insults are totally inexcusable. Nemtsov posted the ‘loser’ remark on Facebook in early September, and half a year is the standard period for the proper preparation, organization and execution of a contract killing.

Boris Nemtsov

Nemtsov at a demonstration

In social terms, Boris Nemtsov was the organizer and coordinator of all mass actions of protest. So the fact that his murder was organized and executed on the eve of the opposition march was, likewise, anything but coincidental.

At the state level, Boris Nemtsov’s prospects in the 2016 State Duma elections, and in 2018 presidential elections, were very real…

But most importantly, Boris Nemtsov had lobbied at the international level for the levying of economic sanctions against Russia, which had a strong moral and material impact on the personal, social and public prestige of Putin.

Nemtsov's body after the shooting

Nemtsov’s body after the shooting

So, Putin personally had a reason for resenting Nemtsov, and for feeling endangered by his constant and convincing criticism, because Putin has feared any open competition from the beginning of his ascent to the throne.

Yet another deadly pattern is that in all the years of Putin’s rule, neither a single terrorist act, nor any blatant contract killing has been uncovered.

As the author notes, Putin’s rise to – and time in – power (a period of roughly 20 years) is associated with a long series of killings and suspicious deaths. Well-known political figures have either been outright murdered or else died under circumstances that tended to generate doubts as to the official explanation of ‘natural causes.’ Of course, the unusual number of untimely deaths does not prove the hand of President Putin himself, but the blasé nature in which the Russian regime appears to treat these deaths – the lack of proper investigation, the hurried conclusions as to causes, and the business-as-usual attitude afterwards – strongly implies culpability. The author provides a list of only some of these notables. It is by no means exclusive, and for some reason does not include such people as liberal Russian MP Galina Starovoitova or Chechen human rights activist Natalia Estemirova (see ‘The Murder of Boris Nemtsov: Real ‘contractor’ and executioner named’). Nevertheless, the list is long, and is reproduced below, together with short biographies:

Artyom Borovik

Artyom Borovik

Artyom Borovik

[Borovik was an investigative journalist who died in a plane crash at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on 9 March 2000, three days prior to the scheduled publication of materials about Putin’s childhood. He was also conducting an investigation into the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999. The Russian presidential election, in which Putin was running as the Kremlin-backed candidate, was scheduled for March 26th. – Ed.]

Anatoly Sobchak

Anatoly Sobchak (center) with Putin (on far right)

Sobchak (center) with Putin (far right)

[Sobchak was Mayor of St. Petersburg from 1991-96. His administration was notorious for corruption, and Putin served as his deputy during Sobchak’s entire tenure. On 20 February 2000, less than a week after meeting with Putin, Sobchak died suddenly in a town in the Kaliningrad region while on a trip to support Putin’s election campaign. A criminal investigation into Sobchak’s death was opened only on 6 May 2000. The Democratic Union party made an official statement that Sobchak and two of his aides had had heart attacks simultaneously, indicating poisoning. Two other men were present with Sobchak during his death, but their names were not publicly disclosed. – Ed.]

Alexander Lebed

Alexander Lebed

Alexander Lebed

[Lebed was a popular Russian army general who placed third in the Russian presidential election of 1996, receiving 14.5% of the nationwide vote. He served as Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation before being elected governor of Krasnoyarsk Territory, Russia’s second largest region, in 1998. He remained a political threat to Putin. In 2002, he was killed when the Mi-8 helicopter in which he was flying collided with power lines in foggy weather. – Ed.]

Sergei Yushenkov

Sergei Yushenkov

Sergei Yushenkov

[Yushenkov was a liberal Russian politician who became famous as a fighter for democracy, free markets, military reform and human rights in Russia. He argued that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had orchestrated the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 to generate public support for the Second Chechen War. He stated publicly that Putin’s rise to power represented a successful coup d’etat by the FSB. Yushenkov was assassinated on 17 April 2003, hours after registering his political party to participate in the December 2003 parliamentary elections. – Ed.]

Yuri Shchekochikhin

Yuri Shchekochikhin

Yuri Shchekochikhin

[Shchekochikhin was a Russian investigative journalist and liberal lawmaker in the Russian parliament who wrote about and campaigned against organized crime and corruption. As a journalist for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, he investigated the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 and the Three Whales Corruption Scandal, involving high-ranking FSB officers and money laundering through the Bank of New York. He died suddenly in July 2003 from a mysterious illness, just a few days before his scheduled departure to the United States where he planned to meet with FBI investigators. His medical documents ended up ‘classified’ by the Russian authorities, but the symptoms of his illness fit a pattern of poisoning by radioactive materials and were similar to the symptoms of Alexander Litvinenko (see below), who alleged that Shchekochikhin’s death was a politically motivated assassination. – Ed.]

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

[Yandarbiyev was a Chechen writer and politician who served as acting president of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria between 1996 and 1997. In 2004, Yandarbiyev was killed in exile in Qatar by a bomb. The day after the attack, Qatari authorities arrested three Russians. One, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Qatar, was released due to his diplomatic status. The other two, both Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents, were charged with assassinating Yandarbiyev, and Russia’s acting Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov declared their imprisonment illegal. The Qatari prosecutors ultimately concluded that Ivanov – a close ally and long-time friend of Putin – had personally ordered the suspects to murder Yandarbiyev. In June 2004, both Russians were sentenced to life imprisonment, the Qatari judge stating they had acted on orders from the Russian leadership. In December 2004, Qatar agreed to extradite the prisoners to Russia to serve out their life sentences, but the agents received a heroes’ welcome upon returning to Moscow, and then disappeared. – Ed.]

Ahmad Kadyrov

Ahmad Kadyrov

Ahmad Kadyrov

[Kadyrov was the Moscow-approved president of the Chechen Republic for seven months from October 2003 until his death from a bomb explosion in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in May 2004. Regarded as a traitor by Chechnya’s guerrilla commanders, and by his predecessor as president, Aslan Maskhadov, Kadyrov despised Maskhadov and envied his respect among the Chechen people. Kadyrov’s son, Ramzan, who had rapidly gained a reputation for thuggery and corruption, claimed to have tried to reach a settlement with Maskhadov, but said he had been sabotaged by Russian intelligence. The Kremlin strongly opposed any attempts to reach an accord with Maskhadov and the Chechen opposition. The bomb that killed Ahmad Kadyrov was not detected by either his security services or sniffer dogs because, reportedly, it had been built into the concrete of a supporting column in the structure in which he was located at the time of the blast. This fact casts doubt on the idea that the bomb was the work of opposition Chechen guerrillas. – Ed.]

Aslan Maskhadov

Aslan Maskhadov (Photo: Natalia Medvedeva)

Aslan Maskhadov (Photo: Natalia Medvedeva)

[Maskhadov was a leader of the Chechen independence movement and 3rd President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. He was elected President of Chechnya with 60% of the vote in January 1997, in elections deemed relatively fair by international observer groups. Following the start of the Second Chechen War in August 1999, he returned to leading the guerrilla resistance against the Russian army. He was killed in Tolstoy-Yurt, a village in northern Chechnya, in March 2005, less than a month after announcing a unilateral ceasefire in hostilities with Russian forces. The head of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) Nikolay Patrushev announced that his special forces had carried out the operation, intending to capture Maskhadov alive but accidentally killing him with a grenade. Putin awarded those responsible for the killings with medals. – Ed.]

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya

[Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist known for her opposition to Putin and the Second Chechen War. She made her reputation reporting from Chechnya. Her investigations and publications appeared in Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its often-critical investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs, and which now operates from abroad. In September 2004, after the Beslan hostage crisis had resulted in the deaths of 385 people (mostly hostages), Politkovskaja wrote in The Guardian newspaper: ‘We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it’s total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin’s guard dogs, see fit.’ She was found dead in the elevator in her apartment building in central Moscow on 7 October 2006, Putin’s birthday. She had been shot twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, and once in the head at point-blank range. –Ed.]

Movladi Baisarov

Movladi Baisarov (L) with Kadyrov

Movladi Baisarov (L) with Kadyrov

[Baisarov was a Chechen warlord and former Federal Security Service (FSB) unit commander who was shot dead in central Moscow in November 2006. He had accused Ramzan Kadyrov of directing numerous political murders and kidnappings, and of trying to hunt him down to eliminate competition. A few days before his death, about 50 Chechen police officers arrived in Moscow from Chechnya. Information indicated that the first deputy prime minister of Chechnya, Adam Delimkhanov, was supervising the group. Baisarov’s FSB guard was suddenly removed, and several of his comrades were taken into custody and sent back to Chechnya. Two of three oil wells controlled by Baisarov outside Pobedinskoye were destroyed.

Baisarov after the shooting

Baisarov after the shooting

Allegedly, Baisarov had intended to give evidence on the Anna Politkovskaya assassination. In Moscow, he tried to make contact with the Lubyanka (FSB headquarters) to prove his innocence, but was soon told not to call any more. He was killed as he emerged from his car and approached a group of plain-clothes Chechens, who shouted and fired at him with automatic weapons before fleeing by car. Most of the bullets struck him in the head. The Moscow prosecutor’s office classified the killing as murder and determined that Baisarov had suffered 11 bullet wounds. Shells from assault rifles, standard-issue police pistols, and a Stechkin APS machine pistol were found at the scene. Most of the shots were fired at point blank range. – Ed.]

Alexander Litvinenko

Marina and Alexander Litvinenko

Marina and Alexander Litvinenko

[Litvinenko was a fugitive officer of the Russian FSB who specialized in combating organized crime. In November 1998, he and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested twice in 1999 and 2000 but released both times. He eventually fled to London with his wife, Marina, and family, and was granted asylum in the UK, where he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for British intelligence. On 1 November 2006, he suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. His illness was attributed to poisoning with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, after the Health Protection Agency found significant amounts of the highly toxic element in his body. Litvinenko stated that he had met with two former KGB agents early on the day he fell ill – Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy. A leaked US diplomatic cable revealed that Kovtun had left polonium traces in the house and car he had used in Hamburg. The men also introduced Litvinenko to a tall, thin man of central Asian appearance called ‘Vladislav Sokolenko,’ described by Lugovoy as a business partner.

Litvinenko in hospital

Litvinenko in hospital

Litvinkenko died on November 23rd. On 20 January 2007, British police announced that they had ‘identified the man they believe poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. The suspected killer was captured on cameras at Heathrow as he flew into Britain to carry out the murder.’ The man in question was the one introduced to Litvinenko as ‘Vladislav.’ As of 26 January 2007, British officials said police had solved the murder of Litvinenko. They discovered ‘a “hot” teapot at London’s Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing.’ In addition, a senior official said investigators had concluded the murder was ‘a “state-sponsored” assassination orchestrated by Russian security services.’ The police wanted to charge former Andrei Lugovoy, who met Litvinenko on 1 November 2006, the day officials believe the lethal dose of polonium-210 was administered.

Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy

Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy

On 22 May 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service called for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoy to the UK on charges of murder. Lugovoy dismissed the claims against him as ‘politically motivated’ and was later elected to the Russian parliament as a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Kovtun was hospitalised in Moscow with radiation poisoning in December 2006. He said he had only one explanation for the presence of polonium: ‘It is that I brought it back from London, where I met Alexander Litvinenko on October 16th, 17th and 18th.’ British detectives, on the other hand, believe Litvinenko was not contaminated until the meeting on November 1st. On 2 October 2011, The Sunday Times published an article in which the chief prosecutor who investigated the murder of Litvinenko publicly expressed suspicion that it was a ‘state directed execution’ carried out by Russia. Until that time, British officials had stopped short of directly accusing Russia of involvement in the poisoning. In January 2015, it was reported in the UK media that the National Security Agency had intercepted communications between Russian government agents in Moscow and those who carried out what was called a ‘state execution’ in London: the recorded conversations allegedly proved that the Russian government was involved in Litvinenko’s murder, and suggested that the motive was Litvinenko’s revelations about Vladimir Putin’s links with the criminal underworld. – Ed.]

Badri Patarkatsishvili

Badri Patarkatsishvili

Badri Patarkatsishvili

[Patarkatsishvili was a Georgian businessman who came third in the January 2008 Georgian presidential election with 7.1% of the vote. He became the wealthiest citizen in Georgia with an estimated wealth of $12 billion, and was one of the country’s biggest philanthropists when he died. He had supported the rise of Mikheil Saakashvili in 2003 when Eduard Shevardnadze was losing his grip on power, and had close ties with exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, a sworn enemy of Vladimir Putin. However, Patarkatsishvili reputedly had close ties to Putin as well. In February 2008, at age 52, he collapsed in his mansion in Surrey, England, and was pronounced dead in less than ten minutes. Preliminary reports indicated a heart attack as the cause of death, and coroners apparently found his death ‘consistent with death due to coronary heart diseases.’ Surrey police treated the case as ‘suspicious,’ however, and some believed assassination a serious possibility. –Ed.]

Gennady Troshev

Gennady Troshev

Gennady Troshev

[Troshev was a Russian Colonel General and formerly the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, including Chechnya, during the Second Chechen War. He was awarded a Hero of Russia award. Early in the Second Chechen War he declared that the shattered city of Grozny should never be rebuilt so as to serve as a warning to Russia’s ethnic minorities against ‘treason.’ Putin signed a decree dismissing Troshev from his post in 2002, after the general publicly defied the suggestion of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that he be transferred from the North Caucasus to the Siberian Military District. Troshev died in 2008 when the passenger plane he was flying in crashed, leaving no survivors. Russian officials have dismissed public suspicions that the plane might have been sabotaged. A week after Troshev’s death, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov renamed a street in Grozny after Troshev. – Ed.]

Patriarch Alexy II

Alexy II

Alexy II

[Alexy II was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Elected Patriarch of Moscow eighteen months before the collapse of the USSR, he became the first Russian Patriarch of the post-Soviet period. During his first official visit to Germany in 1995, he publicly apologized for the ‘Communist tyranny that had been imposed upon the German nation by the USSR.’ In response, Russian Communists and the Russian National Bolshevik Party accused him of insulting the Russian nation and of treason. Alexy II also generated opposition within the Russian Orthodox Church by engaging in ecumenical dialogue with representatives of other religious groups and by publicly condemning anti-Semitism. He responded by saying that such people did not represent the opinions of the church, but were instead expressing their own private views as free citizens. He died of heart failure in his home in 2008 at the age of 79. – Ed.]

Yegor Gaidar

Yegor Gaidar

Yegor Gaidar

[Gaidar was a Soviet and Russian economist and author, and Acting Prime Minister of Russia from June to December 1992. He was the architect of the controversial shock therapy reforms administered in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many Russians held him responsible for the economic hardships in the 1990s that resulted in mass poverty and hyperinflation, although liberals praised him for doing what was necessary to save the country from complete collapse. According to the BBC’s Andrei Ostalski, ‘There were only two solutions – either introduce martial law and severe rationing, or radically liberalize the economy. The first option meant going all the way back to the Stalinist system of mass repression. The second meant a colossal change, a journey – or, rather, a race – through uncharted waters with an unpredictable outcome.’ On 28 November 2006 during a conference in Ireland, the 50-year-old Gaidar fainted as he was finishing a speech. He lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital near Dublin, where doctors said there was no serious threat to his health. He soon felt better, but mass media noticed that this had happened shortly after Aleksandr Litvinenko (see above) died of polonium poisoning. In December 2009, at the age of 53, Gaidar died suddenly in his home outside Moscow while working on a book. Commenting on the death, Vladimir Putin, prime minister at the time, described Gaidar as a ‘genuine citizen and a patriot.’ – Ed.]

Sergei Magnitsky

Sergei Magnitsky

Sergei Magnitsky

[Magnitsky was a Russian accountant and auditor who alleged large-scale theft from the Russian state, sanctioned and carried out by Russian officials. He was arrested and eventually died in prison seven days before the expiration of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial. In total, he served 358 days in Moscow’s notorious Butyrka prison. He developed gall stones, pancreatitis and a blocked gall bladder, and received inadequate medical care. A human rights council set up by the Kremlin found that he had been beaten up just before he died. His case has become an international cause célèbre and led to the US government’s adoption in 2012 of the Magnitsky bill, by which those Russian officials believed to be involved in the auditor’s death were barred from entering the US or using its banking system. In response, Putin signed into law a bill banning all adoptions of Russian children by Americans. – Ed.]

Shabtai Kalmanovich

Shabtai Kalmanovich

Shabtai Kalmanovich

[Kalmanovich, born Šabtajus Henrikovicius Kalmanovicius in Kaunas, Soviet Lithuania, was a KGB spy who later became known in Russia as a successful businessman, concert promoter and basketball sponsor. His family emigrated to Israel when he was in his early 20s, and he began to spy on Israel for the Soviet Union. He even served as a double agent, passing Soviet secrets to Israeli intelligence. He relocated to Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Union, and became active in business both there and in Russia.

Kalmanovich after the shooting

Kalmanovich after the shooting

On 2 November 2009, Kalmanovich was waiting at a traffic light in Moscow in his armored Mercedes when a Lada Prior pulled up and opened fire on him. He was hit by at least 20 bullets and died immediately. His driver was also wounded. News reports said that $1.5 million in cash was found in the car. The murder was never solved. – Ed.]

Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky

[Berezovsky was a Russian businessman, politician and mathematician who became an opponent of President Putin after the latter’s election to the presidency in 2000. In late 2000, the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General demanded Berezovsky appear for questioning, and he instead sought asylum in the UK, which granted his request in 2003. Berezovsky had made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s when the country went through privatization of state property. In 1997 Forbes magazine estimated Berezovsky’s wealth at $3 billion. He was at the height of his power in the later Yeltsin years, when he was deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council and a friend of Boris Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana. Berezovsky helped fund Unity – the political party that formed Vladimir Putin’s parliamentary base – and was elected to parliament from Unity. However, following the Russian presidential election in March 2000, Berezovsky went into opposition and resigned from the State Duma. After he moved to Britain, the government took over his television assets and divested him from other Russian holdings. He was convicted in absentia in Russia of fraud and embezzlement.

Berezovsky with billionaire Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the 1990s, before the latter's arrest and imprisonment for ten years on charges of fraud and tax evasion (AP)

Berezovsky with Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the 1990s, before the latter’s arrest, conviction and 10-year imprisonment for fraud and tax evasion (AP)

Despite an Interpol Red Notice for Berezovsky’s arrest, Russia repeatedly failed to obtain his extradition from Britain, which became a major point of diplomatic tension between the two countries. In 2012, Berezovsky lost a London High Court case he brought over the ownership of Sibneft – a Siberian oil company – against the London-based Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, in which Berezovsky sought over £3 billion in damages. The court judged Berezovsky an ‘inherently unreliable’ witness who ‘regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be molded to suit his current purposes.’ It said: ‘At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along in response to the perceived difficulty in answering the questions.’ The court concluded that Berezovsky had never been a co-owner of Sibneft. He was found dead at his sprawling home near Ascot, Berkshire, on 23 March 2013. A post-mortem examination found his death consistent with hanging with no signs of violent struggle. However the coroner at the inquest into Berezovsky’s death later recorded an open verdict. An unidentifiable fingerprint was detected in the bathroom where Berezovsky’s body had been found. –Ed.]

Putin and Kadyrov

Putin and Kadyrov

‘I know for sure. Even searching for the so-called sacrificial victim among any number of significant people. I’m sorry, but they themselves crack, and then they blame the authorities.’ ~ Vladimir Putin, 29 February 2012 

Кто, как и за что убил Бориса Немцова

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