Two men from the North Caucasus have been detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service as part of the investigation into the murder of former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov. The Guardian reports that President Putin is aware of the detention of Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev. The announcement was made by the Director of the Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, reports BBC News, and is the latest development in a story that has rocked Russia.
Boris Nemtsov was shot with a pistol four times in the back while walking across a prominent bridge in Moscow at around 11:40 p.m. local time on Friday, February 27. He was walking with a companion, when several suspects in a car made the fatal attack. The Telegraph reports that his companion at the time, Anna Duritskaya, is now under armed guard after receiving threats to her life.
Although many possible motivations have been suggested by investigators, the Kremlin has been unable to wrest itself from rumors of having ordered the assassination of Mr. Nemtsov as an intimidation tactic against political opponents. Nemtsov, who served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1997 to 1998 in the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, was preceded in his job by Vladimir Putin, among others. Nemtsov later became a high-profile critic of President Putin as a member of the opposition, writing and speaking at length about alleged corruption within the Kremlin under Putin’s government.
More recently, Nemtsov had been seeking support for protests against war in Ukraine, and in discussing this, the activist expressed fear for his life during an interview with the Sobesednik website (translated by BBC News).
“I’m afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more.”
These comments — coupled with the suggestion, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, that Nemtsov was working on a report highlighting the involvement of Russian military in war in Ukraine — have created enough suspicion to cause the news media to reference the violent deaths of other Putin opponents. BBC News reports that Nemtsov is the seventh such opponent to be murdered — or die in suspicious circumstances — since 2003.
The theory that Nemtsov was assassinated by the Kremlin has been pinpointed as a possible motivation in itself by Putin’s government, suggesting that the murder was an attempt to smear the presidency. The crime was condemned by politicians around the world, including U.S President Barack Obama, U.K Prime Minister David Cameron, and French President Francoise Hollande.
Putin himself characterized it as a provocative act, but CNN broadcasted an interview with the daughter of the slain activist, 30-year-old Zhanna, who lays responsibility for the crime at the door of the Kremlin.
“I think that, of course the authorities have the political responsibility for his murder. It’s evident, because it’s cruel, it’s bare-faced murder in the heart of Russia – Moscow – in the city centre.
“The authorities – including President Putin – have responsibility as the Head of State.”
Investigations into the murder of Boris Nemtsov are ongoing.
[Image: Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images]