Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin INM

Did these five Chechens kill Putin's key opponent?

FIVE men suspected of being involved in the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov went on trial at a Moscow military court on Monday.

The 55-year-old was walking with his girlfriend across the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin when he was shot four times in the back with a pistol on 27 February last year.

The killer then jumped over a barrier into the road and sped off in a getaway car.

Mr Nemtsov was pronounced dead at the scene.

Five suspects, all of them Chechens, faced the court in Moscow as the hearings began on Monday.

Zaur Dadaev, the suspected gunman who served as an officer in the security forces of the Moscow-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as four other people pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Russia's human rights commission previously said Dadaev's "confession" to the killing may have been obtained through torture.

Weeks before being murdered, Mr Netsov, who served as deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, spoke of his fear Vladimir Putin would have him killed.

Speaking to Russia's Sobesednik news website on 10 February, Mr Nemtsov said: "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."

Hours before his death, Mr Nemtsov denounced the president's policies as "mad, aggressive and deadly" and was scheduled to lead an anti-government Spring March protesting against the Kremlin's alleged involvement in the violence in Ukraine.

He was also working on a report containing evidence that he believed proved Russia's direct involvement in the separatist rebellion that has raged in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Moscow has continually denied accusations it is supporting the rebels with troops and sophisticated weaponry.

However, Mr Putin's spokesman called any suggestion of involvement "illogical" and "unacceptable" and analysts have questioned why the Russian President would order Mr Nemtsov's death while letting more prominent critics live.

Officials investigating the murder have also claimed Islamist extremists may have been involved.

The official probe has failed to identify those who ordered the killing, and Russian opposition activists have criticised the Kremlin for failing to track down the mastermind.

"Nemtsov's murder hasn't been solved," Vadim Prokhorov, who represents Nemtsov's family in the trial, said.

"We hope that this court hearing will help to get additional arguments to force investigators and the government to conduct a proper investigation not only into those who carried it out but against those who have plotted this murder."

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