Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Kremlin security cameras failed to capture killing of Putin opponent

No witnesses to assassination but precision of hit 'suggests government involvement'

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The Independent Online

Dozens of security cameras monitor the streets that surround the Kremlin. None, it emerged today, were looking in the right place when four bullets were fired at Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. And the only witness to the murder, his Ukrainian girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, saw nothing.

Four days after the killing which triggered mass protests over the weekend, the identity, motive and means by which the person, or persons, pulled the trigger on Friday night remain no clearer. Indeed, after a second day of formal interviews in the investigation into the attack, the circumstances of the killing remain shrouded in mystery.

Ms Duritskaya, the Ukrainian model who was with Mr Nemtsov on the Great Moskvoretsky Bridge where he was murdered as they walked back from dinner, said in her first interview that the killer shot the former deputy prime minister from behind before jumping into a passing vehicle. She did not see his face and could not remember the make or model of the getaway car.

Lamenting the fact that investigators had questioned her for three days and had not allowed her to return to Ukraine, Ms Duritskaya, 23, told Dozhd TV: “I’ve already fulfilled everything they wanted for the investigation. I don’t understand what else I can do here, and why they won’t let me leave.”

With no eyewitness testimony, a flurry of reports in Russian media has further muddied the waters of the already Kafkaesque investigation – which is officially examining several different motives, from Islamic extremism to neo-Nazi radicals to a business dispute.

According to a report by Kommersant published today, investigators now believe the murder was not carried out by a professional. Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s security services, scoffed at the notion that the crime could have been committed by vigilantes, however, calling the latest theory “a funny one”.


He told The Independent: “They are just putting this out there to the press to deflect suspicion from the government. They want us to think it was done by some rogue element, and that will be the line taken by the investigation.”

The idea of violent fanatics being behind the murder has been difficult to swallow for many former colleagues of Mr Nemtsov. Vladimir Milov, an opposition politician, continued to blame the security services. Noting that the precision of the attack may have required audio surveillance, Mr Milov asked: “Who has the authority and capabilities to conduct audio surveillance on mobile phones in the area of Red Square?”

The Federal Guard Service, which controls the area around the Kremlin, has said none of its surveillance cameras were pointed at the bridge to capture the killing, with spokesman Sergei Devyatov telling the Govorit Moskva radio station that the area “is not part of the zone of responsibility” of the agency. And the city’s Department of Information Technologies, in charge of the surveillance cameras in pedestrian areas, also claimed to have no footage, passing responsibility back on to the Federal Guard Service in comments to RIA Novosti.

With no access to the footage and no eyewitness testimony, Mr Soldatov said it was unlikely the “real mastermind” would ever be known. He agreed with Mr Milov’s theory of involvement by the security services, but stopped short of pinning any blame on President Vladimir Putin.

Russian investigators have offered a three million rouble reward (£32,000) for information. Mr Putin’s spokesman has described the killing as a “cruel murder” with “all the makings of a contract hit”.

“I don’t believe that Putin organised this – given the professionalism of the attack, I think the more plausible theory is that people in the security services are involved,” Mr Soldatov said. “And that it was meant to push Putin in some direction or another.”

Mr Nemtsov will be buried tomorrow.