Boris Nemtsov murder trial begins at Moscow military court

Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov pictured in 2009 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Those standing trial deny the killing

Five men accused of involvement in the killing of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov have gone on trial at a military court in Moscow.

A former deputy prime minister who became a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, Nemtsov was shot dead last year near the Kremlin.

The defendants - all Chechens - were allegedly promised cash to kill him. All deny the charges.

His relatives fear whoever ordered the killing will never be found.

"The murder of Boris Nemtsov has not been solved," said lawyer Olga Mikhailova, who represents his family.

She added that the investigation was neither "effective" nor "comprehensive".

Lawyers for Nemtsov's family also pointed to a lack of video evidence despite the crime happening close to one of the most famous landmarks in Russia.

Tight security was in place as the trial began, with the suspects led into court by armed police wearing balaclavas.

Nemtsov, who was 55, served as first deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

But after falling out of favour with Yeltsin's successor, Mr Putin, he became an outspoken opposition politician, attacking the government over the economy, corruption and its involvement in Ukraine's war.

Who are the accused?

  • Prosecutors say Zaur Dadayev, once a member of an elite Chechen military unit, was the gunman, firing six shots. He is also described as the group's leader.
  • His cousin Anzor Gubashev is said to have been driving the getaway car.
  • Another suspect, Beslan Shabanov, was also said to be in the car, but later died as he was detained in Chechnya. These three are accused of carrying out surveillance of Boris Nemtsov.
  • Another three men, Ramzan Bakhayev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, and Shagid Gubashev, who is Anzor's brother, were not at the murder scene, but prosecutors say they handled the weapon and were accomplices in organising the crime.

Nemtsov murder: The suspects

On what was to be his last night alive Nemtsov had been on a liberal radio station, calling on listeners to join a protest rally at the weekend.

He was shot in the back late at night crossing a bridge a few hundreds meters from to the Kremlin, where the president has his office, dying on the spot.

The site is still marked with flowers in his memory, and some Moscovites now refer to it as "Nemtsov's bridge".

President Putin called the murder "vile and cynical" and vowed that those responsible would be held to account.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nemtsov's alleged killer, Zaur Dadayev, was an officer in an elite Chechen military unit
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The accused were placed in a glass cage for the trial

The accused are said to have had Nemtsov under surveillance for months.

The suspect who investigators say carried out the killing, Zaur Dadayev, was an officer under the command of pro-Moscow's Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's Chechen Republic in the volatile North Caucasus.

Russian authorities are still seeking the arrest of Ruslan Mukhudinov, who is believed to have fled abroad. He is said to have ordered Nemtsov's killing.

But lawyers for Nemtsov's family say the investigators have exaggerated Mr Mukhudinov's role and "the masterminds are high-ranking people".

Russia has seen several killings of high-profile politicians and journalists.

But the country has a long history of prosecuting alleged hit-men and then failing to follow the chain of command upwards to discover who ordered the murder or why, our Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford says.

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