Zaur Dadayev, one of the lead suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov, admitted in a Moscow court to being involved in the crime during his arraignment on Sunday, March 8, 2015.
KIEV, Ukraine — Five men suspected of killing Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov had their first day in court on Sunday, and one of them confessed to investigators of being involved in the crime, according to the presiding Russian judge.
Moscow's Basmanny Court charged key suspects Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev with murder, while the other three were formally arrested.
Dadayev, who was arrested for two months, confessed to participating in the assassination of Russian opposition leader Nemtsov, who was shot dead in the shadow of the Kremlin shortly before midnight on Feb. 27, said Judge Nataliya Mushnikova.
Dadayev and Gubashev were detained early Saturday in connection with Nemtsov's murder, Russia's highest-profile killing in years, and a blow to the country's floundering political opposition movement.
Authorities late Saturday said they had detained three additional suspects, including Gubashev's brother, Shagid, as well as Khamzat Bakhaev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov. All three were formally arrested Sunday. Another suspect reportedly blew himself up with a grenade after being surrounded by police, refusing to be taken into custody and heaving a grenade at them. All of the men are Chechen.
The arrests by police were made in the restive North Caucasus region in souther Russia. Dadayev is known to have served as deputy commander of a battalion of Interior Ministry troops who fight against Islamic insurgents. Investigators said Gubashev had worked for a private security company as a guard in a Moscow hypermarket.
Upon being escorted by armed guards to the courtroom, Dadayev spoke only a few words to reporters. "I love Prophet Mohammed," he shouted, according to HDT photographer Evgeny Feldman.
Reporters inside the Basmanny court quoted Bakhaev's lawyer as saying there is no reason for his client to be in custody. A journalist for independent Russian Internet TV station Dozhd said Bakhaev told the court he did not participate in the crime, and that he has six young children to feed.
Eskerkhanov also proclaimed his innocence, saying he was at a club where he works on the night of the murder, and that a witness can testify to his being there.
Russia's Investigative Committee said it has been assessing several possible motives, including that Nemtsov was killed in an attempt to smear Putin's image and destabilize the country. The committee added that it was looking into possible connections to Islamic extremism and Nemtsov's personal life.
Chechnya, where Dadayev reportedly worked, was wracked by two wars over the past 20 years between Russian forces and separatists increasingly allied with fundamentalist Islam. Although the insurgency died down in Chechnya several years ago, attacks attributed to Islamic militants sporadically occur in nearby regions.
Chechnya's strongman Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov has imposed an Islam-tinged rule on the region, including the mandatory wearing of headscarves by women. Kadyrov, himself a former rebel, has been widely accused of rampant human rights abuses including executions and abductions of opponents.
Many believe that Nemtsov's death in a tightly secured area near the Kremlin wouldn't have been possible without official involvement, and could be an attempt to scare other government foes.
Putin, who had dubbed Nemtsov's killing a "provocation," made no comment on the detentions announced Saturday or the court's decision to charge the men on Sunday.
Tags: BORIS NEMTSOV, English, MOSCOW, RUSSIA, WORLD