Tatyana Stanovaya, «New Security-Official Wars or What Might Zolotov Know About the Nemtsov Assassination?»Slon, 18 May 16

RBC has today published another exclusive: the paper has come into possession of an appeal of the investigator in charge of the case involving the assassination of Boris Nemtsov to Viktor Zolotov. The investigator attempts to call the attention of the Interior Troops commander in chief, and now head of the Russian National Guard, to his subordinates from the leadership of the Chechen Interior Troops, who are allegedly concealing evidence of their involvement in the organization of the high-profile crime. The letter is an indirect indication that a most powerful regrouping of the uniformed agencies automatically fortifying, but by no means weakening, the position of Ramzan Kadyrov occurred with the formation of the Russian National Guard.

The killing of Boris Nemtsov intensified the conflict between the leadership of Chechnya and the federal security officials. Federal precisely: the MVD, FSB, and SKR [Investigation Committee of Russia]. The autonomy of Kadyrov’s effectually private army, the lawlessness of the Chechen enforcers outside of the republic (we recall just the conflict between the leadership of Chechnya and the Stavropol’ police, the «special license» of the Chechens in Moscow) — all this long vexed the capital’s security officials. The killing of Nemtsov, though, made it possible to switch from quiet, impotent hatred to a chance to act. The political restrictions on freedom of speech are now powerless here. The conflict of the federal and Chechen security officials are in full view.

Leaks from the FSB, notably in Novaya Gazeta, have made it possible to restore in detail the theory to which the SKR security personnel and investigators adhere. In March 2015 the newspaper effectually showcased the FSB theory with a direct indictment of the Chechen security officials and a positive evaluation of the efforts of the security personnel themselves (the «intelligence assets» «snapped into action» pretty well, the investigators are demonstrating «seriousness of intent»). The paper named as the organizer of the assassination one Ruslan, an enforcer of the MVD of Russia Interior Troops 46th Brigade North Battalion and the nephew of some Chechen security official, whose name — Geremeyev — was immediately deduced. In a publication on the anniversary of the assassination Novaya says plainly that the organizers of the assassination were reported to Putin on 2 March 2015, a couple of days after the loss of the opposition politician, that is. «The essence of FSB Director Bortnikov’s report is that the perpetrators are a group of Chechen security officials from the Russian Federation MVD Interior Troops North Battalion supposedly led by Deputy Battalion Commander Ruslan Geremeyev.» But the feds lost out in practice in the battle for their theory of the assassination: the criminal case was developed in the direction of religious vengeance — Nemtsov was allegedly killed for having interceded for the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The FSB leaks had ceased by the end of 2015.

But let’s address an important detail — the serious complaints of anonymous FSB sources in published Novaya items about the leadership of the FSO [Federal Protective Service]. «What is known to General Zolotov, former deputy FSO chief and the present commander of the Interior Troops of Russia, whose subordinates supposedly went to the ‘meet-up’ in Dzhalka (native village of the Geremeyevs), he himself took a very long time responding to the Investigation Committee’s inquiry about their status? Why did the FSO of Russia not make available the tapes from the video cameras set up in Red Square and the Kremlin walls and why does the investigation have to rely only on one video taken by a Center TV camera,» Novaya asked, effectually reflecting the anger of unnamed informers in the FSB.

All this occurred before Vladimir Putin made the decision to withdraw the Interior Troops from the MVD system and to form a national guard under the direction of Viktor Zolotov. The aforesaid Novaya Gazeta shortly after had a very reverberatory interview with Petr Zaikin, former officer of the Interior Troops, who said that the formation of the National Guard means the end of Kadyrov’s army. This seemed like revolutionary news: Putin had resolved the problem of Kadyrov’s strong-arm autonomy and transferred the Chechen leader’s «troops» to one of his own greatest confidants — Zolotov.

This very logical conclusion fails to take account of one essential «but,» which changes everything — Kadyrov and Zolotov get along splendidly. That is, contrary to the expectations of the expert who granted Novaya the interview, Zolotov becomes the main guarantee of the security of both Kadyrov and his army in the republic and defense counsel against the attacks of other federal security officials. It was Zolotov who was the highest-ranking federal security official to whom the Kremlin entrusted «negotiation» with Kadyrov at the moment when the FSB and SKR were seeking by might and main to question Geremeyev. While still deputy interior minister, he paid a very friendly and warm visit to Chechnya at the start of last September, giving instructions to and highly praising the Kadyrov enforcers, who in the eyes of the aforementioned security officials are potential suspects (to whom there probably have many questions to put). The difference in approach is colossal. It is Zolotov, as Interior Troops commander in chief, who was responsible for the actions of the Chechen enforcers, even if they are politically removed from beneath the influence of the leadership of the MVD. Kadyrov’s enforcers do not report to Viktor Kolokoltsev, on the other hand, there is a chain of command if the benevolent relations of Zolotov and Kadyrov are considered.

And it is against this background that the notorious appeal of Nikolay Tutevich, SKR investigator in the Nemtsov case, to Zolotov appears. The appeal is in a sense provocative and deliberate. If we read between the lines, Tutevich is asking Zolotov a difficult question: is the command of the Interior Troops (now of the National Guard also) not covering up Nemtsov’s killers? Some details point to this. The fact, for example, that the MVD Interior Troops Main Command denied in response to a past SKR inquiry the facts of Dadayev and Geremeyev being on official business in Moscow in the period of preparation and execution of the assassination.

Now, taking the investigation’s theory as the starting point, the Nemtsov family attorney is seeking to question Zolotov. The RBC article once again speaks about the vanished tapes from the video observation cameras handled by the FSO — former subordinates of the leader of the National Guard.

The SKR letter to Zolotov may be interpreted as an attempt by the federal security officials to point publicly to the fact that the leader of the Russian National Guard is affording Kadyrov and his enforcers suspected of the murder of Nemtsov protection. But this is also evidence of the consolidation of Kadyrov’s positions: this happens automatically when your «senior comrade» suddenly occupies a privileged position among your potential enemies. Whereas for the FSB, MVD, and SKR Kadyrov’s uniformed agencies are competitors, for Zolotov they are allies. And whereas earlier the inter-security agency conflict had predominantly a vertical structure — regionals against the feds — now it is assuming a more pronounced and horizontal nature — feds against feds. Unless Putin attempts to rectify the situation, this could shortly result in a new war of security clans, with a sea of dirt and subsequent structural and personnel changes.

 

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