The daughter of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has claimed Vladimir Putin is ‘politically’ responsible for her father’s murder.
In an interview in Italy, Zhanna Nemtsova claimed her father was ‘a critic of Putin, he fought with Putin, with nobody else’, and said she blamed the Russian president for his death.
The killing of 55-year-old Mr Nemtsov, who was shot near the Kremlin in late February, has infuriated the opposition, which sees Mr Putin as responsible.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Nemtsova added: ‘After his death the opposition is beheaded and everybody is frightened.’
Five people have been detained and two charged for the killing, although Mr Nemtsov’s colleagues worry that whoever ordered his murder may not be found
The only man to so far confess to the killing has dramatically denied any guilt and claims his confession was forced under torture and threat of death.
Zaur Dadayev was said to have admitted to the shooting but he now claims he was told that by confessing, a friend he was with could go free.
If he failed to confess he would be killed in a grenade explosion, a fate he alleged another suspect named Bislan Shavanov met in recent days.
Dadayev said: ‘At the time of the arrest I was with a friend, my former subordinate Ruslan Yusupov. And they said that if I confessed, he would be freed.
‘Otherwise the same thing would happen to me as to Shavanov.’
The official version is that Shavanov killed himself with a grenade as police came to arrest him.
He added he was not guilty and the judge did not allow him to speak, he told Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper.
Human rights experts who met Dadayev and other suspects in detention found ‘traces of torture and beating’ on their bodies, it was reported.
‘We are carefully checking into this,’ said chairman of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, Anton Tsvetkov.
‘There are reasons that lead us to believe Zaur Dadayev confessed under torture,’ said Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council.
There were ‘numerous wounds’ on the body of the suspect.
Earlier law enforcement sources claimed forensic tests ‘give reasons to believe that Dadayev was the man who shot Nemtsov’.
However, the source admitted the murder weapon had not been found yet.
Nemtsov – a prominent Putin foe – was gunned down close to the Kremlin on 27 February as he walked home late at night with his Ukrainian model girlfriend Anna Duritskaya.
More startling revelations to be reported today included claims Nemtsov’s murder was ordered by a senior security official in Chechnya.
The identity of the man – named only Ruslan, and said to be a close relative of top political figures in the region – is known to Vladimir Putin and the FSB, but he has not been detained, reported Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading investigative newspaper.
The Russian president has been told in addition that three other prominent liberal figures are on a chilling Chechen ‘hit list’.
They are exiled Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who was jailed for a decade under Putin but now says he has ambitions to become president; Alexei Venediktov, respected editor of editorially independent Ekho Mosocw radio; and glamorous Ksenia Sobchak, a TV presenter and opposition blogger, daughter of the president’s political mentor Anatoly Sobchak, former mayor of St Petersburg.
Other media in Russia today named him as Ruslan Geremeev.
In sensational claims, the newspaper reported that the man who ordered 55-year-old Nemtsov’s murder is a highly decorated major in the same Interior Ministry unit called ‘North’ in Chechnya in which alleged killer Dadayev served until recently.
Novaya Gazeta said it did not name him because of the presumption of innocence, but admitted the alleged mastermind’s identity ‘is known to dozens, if not hundreds, of members of the FSB and the Investigation Committee’.
He is said to have been questioned by investigators on Monday, though not detained.
His uncle was named as Suleiman Geremeev, a senator for Chechnya in the Russian upper house.
Another relative is Russian MP Adam Delimkhanov, a close henchman of powerful Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadryov, a key Putin ally.
‘The head of state was informed about the details by the director of the FSB Alexander Bortnikov,’ reported Novaya Gazeta, which is part-owned by ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and by Alexander Lebedev, proprietor of The Independent titles and the London Evening Standard.
Several reports say the disclosures prevent a major challenge for Putin, because he must allow the prosecution of a key figure from the security services professing total loyalty to him in Chechnya – or snub his Moscow law enforcement cadres who have exposed the murder plot.
For some time, there has been a power struggle between those under Kadyrov’s command, and those at federal level in Moscow, with claims the Chechens have a free hand to conduct illegal operations.
The Daily Mail