Chechen Perpetrators Get Moderate Prison Terms for Russian Opposition Leader Nemtsov’s Murder

Convicts in the Nemtsov murder case: (L-R) Temirlan Eskerkhanov, Shadid Gubashev, Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev smile while hearing the prosecutor's plea at the Moscow district military court in Moscow, Russia, 12 July 2017. Photo: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Five convicted murderers of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov have been sentenced to between 11 and 20 years in prison each.
  • Prosecution had asked for between 17 years in prison and life sentences for each one of them.
  • All five are Chechens, with of having served in an elite military unit under Chechen President Kadyrov.
  • Defendants’ lawyers have vowed to appeal the verdicts.
  • Nemtsov’s family and supporters have stated the prison terms are insufficient.
  • Family’s lawyers are expected to launch further legal action.

The five Chechens, including a former security officer, who have been convicted for the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, have each received sentences ranging from 11 to 20 years in prison.

Zaur Dadayev, a former officer in the security forces of the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and four other men at the end of June were found guilty of murder in the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Those who ordered Nemtsov’s assassination, however, it have not been established by the Russian court.

Nemtsov, a former First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in 1998 under Vladimir Putin’s predecessor, President Boris Yeltsin, was shot dead in downtown Moscow, near the Kremlin, at the end of February 2015.

At the time of his assassination, Nemtsov was the co-chair of the PARNAS party (“People’s Freedom Party for Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption”) and a member of the legislature in the city of Yaroslavl.

He was also working on a report about Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the start of the still ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbass region. Crimea’s seizure was Vladimir Putin’s response to the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West.

The war in Donbass is also believed to be part of the same response although Moscow adamantly denies any involvement.

Nemtsov’s report was completed and released in May 2015 by his associates after his death, and is entitled “Putin War” (in Russian). Some 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the war in Eastern Ukraine so far, while millions have been displaced.

The Nemtsov murder trial of the five Chechen suspects began in October 2016. The verdict was approved in a vote of 12 jurors after three days of deliberation.

Nemtsov’s memory has been honored by the Russian opposition with remembrance rallies on the date of his assassination, February 27.

The US Congress is expected to rename the street where the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., after Boris Nemtsov.

Convicts in the Nemtsov murder case Zaur Dadayev gestures, while listening to a sentence at the Moscow district military court in Moscow, Russia, 12 July 2017. Photo: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Not Enough’

Moscow’s District Military Court on Thursday found guilty all the five defendants in the case of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s murder and gave them 11 to 20-year sentences in a high-security penal colony, state-run news agency TASS reported.

The decision was made by Judge Yuri Zhitnikov based on the jury’s guilty verdict. Group leader Zaur Dadayev was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Anzor Gubashev to 19 years in prison, Shadid Shubashev received a sentence of 16 years in prison, Temirlan Eskerkhanov was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Khamzat Bakhayev was gviven 11 years.

Each of the five convicted murderers was also given a fine of RUB 100,000 (USD 1,680).

Eskerkhanov will be stripped of his ensign military rank, while Dadayev will be deprived of his lieutenant military rank and the Order of Courage.

The convicts will serve out their sentences in a high-security penal colony. Apart from Dadayev, the freedom of other four convicts will be restricted for another two years after they have served out the sentence.

However, the court has taken into account the time they have already spent in custody since March 2015.

Material evidence has been handed over to the Russian Investigative Committee which continues to look into the criminal case.

Prosecutor Maria Semenenko had asked for sentences of between 17 years and life imprisonment for each of the five defendants.

“The verdict will be appealed in the coming days. This will surely be done next week,” one of the lawyers of the convicted murders stated.

Nemtsov’s former aide Ilya Yashin, who was present at the verdict announcement in the Moscow District Military Court, believes that the sentence imposed on Dadaev is insufficient.

“Of course, it’s not enough. What is 20 years for a human life?” he noted.

The convicts stated in court that they are puzzled by the sentences they had been given.

“I don’t understand what I have been convicted for,” Shadid Gubashev said.

“May God be your judge,” Eskerkhanov said addressing the judge and adding that he also did not understand his sentence.

Convicts in the Nemtsov murder case Anzor Gubashev (L) and Zaur Dadayev (R in cage) smile while hearing the prosecutor’s plea at the Moscow district military court in Moscow, Russia, 12 July 2017. Photo: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

More Legal Action

According to investigators, Ruslan Mukhudinov, a former officer of the Chechen Sever (or North) battalioin, is the mastermind behind the murder.

Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer of Boris Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, said that those who arranged and payed for her father’s murder must face a more severe punishment.

“The inevitability of punishment is what is most important. However, we are confident that those who organized and paid for this crime must face the harshest punishment,” the lawyer said.

“We will continue to seek legal action against the organizers and the individuals who were behind Nemtsov’s murder. Today’s sentence indicates that the masterminds behind this murder could be in Grozny,” Prokhorov told reporters, referring to the capital of Russia’s Chechen autonomous republic.

For her part, another defense attorney of the Nemtsov family, Olga Mikhailova, voiced regret over the fact that the court sentenced the perpetrator of the crime Zaur Dadayev to just 20 years behind bars instead of life imprisonment.

The lawyers said that they were going to discuss with Zhanna Nemtsova if they were going to appeal and ask for greater prison terms for Nemtsov’s murderers.

Zaur Dadayev is a former member of the elite Northern Battalion in the Northern Caucasus republic of Chechnya, a unit under the personal command of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

He confessed to the killing but Russia’s human rights council said that was likely to have happened under torture.

Dadayev was said to have fired the gun, Anzor Gubashev was accused of driving him to and from the crime scene.

Another suspect said to have taken part in the killing, Beslan Shavanov, died as police tried to arrest him.

Prosecutors said Nemtsov’s killers had been promised RUB 15 million (USD 250,000) to carry out the killing.

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