MOSCOW – A jury found five men guilty Thursday in the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, bringing to a close a trial that Nemtsov’s allies believe failed to bring the slaying’s masterminds to justice.
Nemtsov, a top political opponent of President Vladimir Putin, was shot late at night in 2015 as he was walking across a bridge just outside the Kremlin. His brazen murder sent shockwaves through the Russian opposition.
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A jury at a Moscow court found the suspected triggerman, a former officer in the security forces of Chechnya’s leader, guilty of murdering Nemtsov. Four other men were convicted of involvement in the killing.
It will now be up to the judge to sentence the five men. Prosecutors are expected to announce the sentences they are seeking at a hearing next week.
Nemtsov’s allies and family have criticized Russia’s Investigative Committee, which investigates high-profile crimes, for stopping short of examining the possible role of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and top Chechen officers in the killing.
When the now-convicted gunman, former officer Zaur Dadayev, was arrested shortly after the slaying, Kadyrov vehemently defended him as a “true patriot.”
Nemtsov’s eldest daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, said in a Facebook post after the verdict was announced that “the case remains unsolved.”
“Investigators and the court clearly did not want to uncover the truth about this crime,” Nemstova said, pointing to the fact that no high-profile Chechen officials were questioned.
“There was only one task: find the triggerman and hold a trial. They did just that. But we will continue to fight for the truth by any means we have.”
Nemtsov’s family has petitioned investigators to look into Kadyrov’s possible involvement and to question Ruslan Geremeyev, commander of the police unit in which Dadayev served.
The police commander was summoned to testify, but he failed to show up. Investigators told the court last year that they visited Geremeyev’s property in Chechnya but “no one opened the door.”
Prosecutors said the five men included Nemtsov’s killer, as well as accomplices who helped obtain the murder weapons and transported the shooter to the crime scene.
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But investigators said they never established who ordered Nemtsov’s assassination.
Dadayev and the other men confessed soon after they were arrested. They later retracted their confessions, saying they had been tortured into taking responsibility for the slaying.
Ilya Yashin, a close Nemtsov ally, welcomed the convictions in a Facebook post. He said that having the architect of Namtsov’s death never identified sends a chilling message to Russian opposition figures.
“Political murders in Russia will continue if the masterminds are able to get away with this,” Yashin said.