“Follow the trail of dead Russians.” That was Cyber and Homeland Security expert Clinton Watts’ advice regarding the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. And though there have been several high profile Russian murders since November, the trail Watts referred to goes back even further, and involves Russia’s other spheres of influence, namely the Ukraine and Chechnya. It’s evidently a difficult trail to follow, however, if resistance leader Boris Nemtsov’s murder is any indication. Five Chechen men were just convicted of his murder, but his allies insist that there has been a coverup that obscures who paid those perps to pull the trigger.
Olga Mikhailova, one of Nemtsov’s daughter’s attorneys, said, “We are absolutely convinced, considering how the murder was organized and carried out, that the roots of the killing go straight to top Russian and Chechen officials.”
Nemtsov, who was once in the running for Putin’s political seat post-Yeltsin, was working on a report on Russia’s military presence in the Ukraine. The noted Putin critic was murdered near Moscow’s famous Red Square as he walked to dinner. There was plenty of evidence, including CCTV footage and numerous witnesses. According to the prosecution, the five convicted men were working for a 15 million ruble bounty — that comes to over $250 million for the high-profile hit.
It seems, however, that the shooter, Zaur Dadayev, and his accomplices were ultimately expendable. Their conviction is intended to signal that the matter is closed when, in fact, whoever financed and organized the assassination remains at large. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is at the top of the list of suspects according to Nemtsov’s supporters. Kadyrov is deeply indebted to Putin and one of the Russian leader’s most vocal believers. He is also a fan of Dadayev’s work, calling Nemtsov’s killer a “true patriot of Russia.”
Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer working for Nemtsov’s daughter, stated their camp’s disappointment in how the trial has played out. “It’s the biggest crime of the century and yet they haven’t identified the real organizers or those who ordered it,” he said. “The Russian government was not prepared to look into the entourage of Kadyrov.” Nor were they prepared to look into Kadyrov’s gay purge in Chechnya until Angela Merkel scolded Putin into making a cursory gesture at investigating the reports of gay men being rounded up into camps and tortured.
The fact of the matter is that Putin put Kadyrov in power in 2004 and will keep him there as long as he suppresses Chechen independence movements and stays fiercely loyal. If Kadyrov or his associates were, in fact, involved in the assassination one of Putin’s biggest critics, that could itself have been an act of loyalty. And Nemtsov is just one of many politicians, spies, diplomats, activists, and journalists who have died under mysterious circumstances that the Russian government chooses to view as a “provocation” rather than an affront.