MOSCOW—Russian investigators have arrested two men from the restive North Caucasus region as suspects in the brazen slaying of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov more than a week ago, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSS) chief announced in a televised statement on Saturday.
FSS Director Alexander Bortnikov identified the two men, Anzor Kubashev and Zaur Dadayev, in a rare television appearance on state-run Channel 1. But he did not announce any charges and disclosed little else about the case other than that “necessary investigation activities are currently in progress.”
Although Nemtsov allies hailed the first reported progress in the investigation of his February 27 killing, the accusations against suspects from the Caucasus region suggested that authorities are pursuing the theory they put forth just a day after the contract-style hit—that it was motivated by enemies of Russia trying to destabilize the country.
Nemtsov, 55, the most visibly outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down as he walked along a bridge with his 23-year-old Ukrainian girlfriend, model Anna Duritskaya, just before midnight after dining at a fashionable Red Square restaurant. The shooting occurred just yards from the Kremlin wall along the Moscow River embankment, an area usually under intense surveillance.
Duritskaya was compelled to stay in Moscow for three days after the slaying for interrogation but fled to her parents’ home in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, as soon as police said she was free to go. She left under escort by a Ukrainian diplomat and her lawyer, skipping her slain lover’s funeral that drew thousands to central Moscow on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general reported that Duritskaya had been placed under protection on Friday after reporting to police that she had received a death threat from “unknown persons.” She was being guarded as a witness in the Nemtsov murder investigation, Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin said in statement posted on his office web site.
Security camera footage from the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge where Nemtsov was felled by four gunshots to the head and torso was aired on TVC, a Moscow television network.
The footage showed a man jumping into a passing car that sped away seconds after Nemtsov was shot. The killing wasn’t visible on the security tape because a snow plow parked on the bridge obstructed the view from the camera—even though there was no snowfall that night.
Image credits: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko