One of two men accused of taking part in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has admitted his guilt, a Moscow judge said.
Two reported natives of Russia's restive Chechnya republic, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, were charged on Sunday with involvement in the murder of Nemtsov, who was shot four times in the back within sight of the Kremlin on February 27.
Judge Natalia Mushnikova said at a hearing that Dadayev had confessed.
"Dadayev's involvement in committing this crime is confirmed by, apart from his own confession, the totality of evidence gathered as part of this criminal case," Mushnikova told the court.
In the defendant's cage, Gubashev covered his face with pieces of paper and said he was not guilty.
Three other men—Ramzan Bakhayev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Gubashev's brother Shagid—were also detained as suspects in the case but have not been charged. They also denied they had any part in the crime, but investigators "have evidence they were involved," a representative told Russia's Interfax news agency.
Bailiffs bent the suspects over and held their hands high above their heads as they brought them into court. The judge ordered all five men arrested without bail.
Another suspect killed himself with a grenade in the Chechen capital of Grozny as police closed in on Saturday night, Interfax reported. With police blocking him inside his apartment, the man threw one grenade at officers and blew himself up with a second one.
Although the Russian government has made a major step forward with the arrests, it has yet to uncover the person who ordered the hit on Nemtsov. Russian courts have sentenced shooters in other high profile political murders like that of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, but critics say that those convicted of past assassinations were the patsies of larger conspiracies to silence critics and weaken Russia's opposition.
Dadayev's history pointed to the possible involvement of Chechen authorities. According to a security official in Ingushetia, a region neighboring Chechnya where some of the suspects were detained, Dadayev served for 10 years in the Sever Interior Ministry battalion in Chechnya.
The Sever battalion is led by the brother of Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian Duma and a close ally of pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny wrote in a blog post last week that the murder could have been carried out by some of the many security personnel in the employ of Kadyrov, who is known for his support of Vladimir Putin and criticism of Russia's political opposition. Kadyrov told thousands of his heavily-armed men assembled at a stadium in December that "we are the foot soldiers of Vladimir Putin," declaring his loyalty to the Russian president.
Kadyrov said Nemtsov's killing was "no doubt" the work of Western intelligence agencies.
Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya with Putin's support since Russian forces fought two bloody wars against rebels there, was targeted by an unsuccessful suicide bombing and attack by gunmen in Grozny in December.
Kadyrov held a huge protest against the "immorality" of the slain French Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in January, criticizing Western sympathy for the newspaper that published caricatures of Muhammad and other religious figures.
Alleged Nemtsov assassin Anzor Gubashev reportedly worked as a security guard while his brother drove a truck, both in the Moscow region. Popular website LifeNews, which is known for its close ties to the Kremlin, published what it said was a video of the Gubashev brothers visiting their grandmother in Ingushetia days after Nemtsov's murder. In the video, Anzor holds a baby on his lap as he eats, while Shagid, reportedly behind the camera, asks him and their grandmother to say a few words to relatives who aren't present. "We're just sitting and relaxing," Shagid says.
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