Investigation Links Kremlin Hit Squad to Notorious Murder

Putin critic Boris Nemtsov was tailed for a year before being killed in 2015
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2022 8:02 AM CDT
Investigation Links Kremlin Hit Squad to Notorious Murder
A 2009 photo of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov. He was murdered in 2015.   (AP Photo / Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(Newser) – His 2015 murder was jarring: Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, was gunned down near the Kremlin a few days before he was to lead an opposition protest. Five Chechen men were eventually jailed for the killing, but the BBC notes that the larger question of who ordered the killing and why remained unanswered. Now, a joint investigation by the BBC, Bellingcat, and The Insider finds a link between the murder and the Kremlin. They discovered that for about a year before he was killed, Nemtsov had been closely tailed by a secret assassination squad from the FSB, Russia's main security agency. Specifically, the investigation singles out a veteran operative by the name of Valery Sukharev.

Using records obtained through an FSB database called Magistral, the investigation shows that Sukharev tracked Nemstov on at least 13 trips, the most recent being just 10 days before the assassination. Sukharev also has been similarly linked to assassination attempts against two other prominent Putin critics, Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza, both of whom survived poisonings. "In a corrupt society like Russia, [Magistral] is a double-edged sword," says Christo Grozev, executive director of Bellingcat. "And it allows people like us to actually go and tail these same spies, these same FSB officers." The Kremlin calls the allegation a "fabrication." Read the full story here or here. It notes that Nemtsov and Putin were both on the short list to replace Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, but Putin won out. (Read more Boris Nemtsov stories.)

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