Three more suspects in last month's assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov have been officially charged with his murder, the Interfax news agency reported Monday, as the main suspect's lawyer said his client had an alibi.
Zaur Dadayev's lawyer, Ivan Gerasimov, told the RBC newspaper Monday that his client had an alibi on the night Nemtsov was killed. Gerasimov told the newspaper that Dadayev was in Moscow, but nowhere near where the murder took place, without elaborating.
Earlier Monday, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, Shagid Gubashev and Khamzat Bakhayev, three of the five Chechen men arrested earlier this month in connection with Nemtsov's murder, joined Dadayev — a senior police officer — and Anzor Gubashev in being charged with the killing.
An unnamed source close to the investigation told Interfax that law enforcement had changed the charges against the suspects, replacing the charge of murder motivated by greed or mercenary purposes with that of murder based on "political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity."
Nemtsov was gunned down on the night of Feb. 27 on Moscow's Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, steps from the Kremlin. He had been set to lead an anti-government protest on March 1.
Each of the suspects had a planned role in the assassination, according to an unnamed source familiar with the investigation quoted by Interfax.
According to Interfax's source, Dadayev, a former deputy commander of Chechnya's Sever police battalion, likely followed Nemtsov onto the bridge from the restaurant in the GUM shopping mall on Red Square where the politician was dining with his girlfriend, who was unharmed in the attack.
Brothers Shagid and Anzor Gubashev allegedly drove onto the bridge to pick up Dadayev in a getaway car after the latter fatally shot Nemtsov several times from behind.
The alleged roles of Bakhayev and Eskerkhanov in the murder were not detailed in the source's account.
Interfax's source also claimed that investigators had found a private property in the Moscow region where the suspects allegedly gathered to plot the murder.
Independent media reports have speculated about indirect links between the murder suspects and high-ranking Chechen officials. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov — who suggested earlier this month that Nemtsov's stance on religious-themed caricatures in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo could have been the motive behind the murder — said in an Instagram post he knew Dadayev to be a "true Russian patriot."
According to independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Dadayev traveled to and from Moscow with the commander of the Sever battalion, Alibek Delimkhanov, who is the brother of State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov.
RBC news agency reported Monday that Dadayev had been living in Moscow for the past six months, despite numerous previous media reports stating he was on vacation from Chechnya in the Moscow at the time of the murder. RBC cited a source as saying Dadayev likely cohabited with Ruslan Geremeyev, another member of the Sever battalion. Geremeyev, according to Novaya Gazeta, is the nephew of Adam Delimkhanov and Russian senator Suleiman Geremeyev. Ruslan Geremeyev is currently in the Chechen capital Grozny where he is under the close protection of Chechen security forces, Novaya Gazeta reported Monday.
Eskerkhanov, one of the men charged Monday, is a former local police officer in a unit headed by Vakha Geremeyev, another uncle of Ruslan Geremeyev, according to Novaya Gazeta.