Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer

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Boris Nemtsov, Putin critic, shot dead
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Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer
On Saturday, the head of Russia’s federal security service named Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev as suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov.
Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by a policeman at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Two men of Chechen origin, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, were charged on March 8 with the murder of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov as the five suspects in the case appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Three unidentified suspects detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov hide their faces inside the defendants' cage at the Basmanny district court in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Suspect Tamerlan Eskerkhanov (R) detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov is escorted by a policeman in a court corridor in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 27: Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends an opposition rally in center of Moscow on October 27, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Thousands of Russian opposition supporters marched through the Russian capital on Sunday protesting against President Vladimir Putin and calling for the release of people they cosider to be political prisoners. (Photo by Vasili Shaposhnikov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)
Stunned, thousands of Russians are laying flowers and lighting candles on this Moscow bridge ... where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down late Friday night. The vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin was due to lead a march on Sunday against the war in Ukraine as well as Kremlin policies on the economy ... but organizers say they've canceled the event.
Critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have a history of either being killed or forced to flee their homeland — Boris Nemtsov is just the latest.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 28: Police guards the place of murders of Boris Nemtsov on Moskvoretsky bridge in Moscow, Russia on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot dead at night February 28 just a few steps from the Kremlin. (Photo by Dmitry Kuchev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 28: Police officer guards the place of murders of Boris Nemtsov on Moskvoretsky bridge in Moscow, Russia on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot dead at night February 28 just a few steps from the Kremlin. (Photo by Dmitry Kuchev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends a rally against the war in Ukraine September 21, 2014 in Moscow, Russia. Thosands people gathered to protest against Vladimir Putin's policy and against the war with Ukraine in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 15: Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov speaks during a rally against the policies and intervention in Ukraine and a possible war in Crimea, on March 15, 2014 in Moscow, Russia. Thousands of Moscouvits gathered for the rally in Central Moscow as Crimeans vote tomorrow on whether to secede and join Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 12: Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks as Russian anti-Putin opposition activists hold a 'March of Millions' rally on the National Day of Russia on June 12, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. 'Russia Day' is a national holiday since 1992 celebrating independence from the USSR. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images)
Russia's Interior Ministry says Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure and former deputy prime minister, has been shot and killed near the Kremlin. (Feb. 27)
A baby prepares to put a flower to the portraits of Boris Nemtsov during a memorial ceremony on Independence Square in Kiev on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladmir Putin, was shot dead in central Moscow late Friday ahead of a major opposition rally this weekend, investigators and police said. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
RusNano State Corporation CEO Anatoly Chubais (2nd R) arrives with floweres on February 28, 2015 at the spot, where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking in sight of the Kremlin late on February 27, prompting an international chorus of condemnation. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER UTKIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER UTKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man cries on February 28, 2015 at the spot, where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking in sight of the Kremlin late on February 27, prompting an international chorus of condemnation. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER UTKIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER UTKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 8: Suspects, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, are seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Zaur Dadaev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by policemen at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: A suspect is seen behind the bars as Basmanny Court of Moscow hold meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on March 8, 2015. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Zaur Dadaev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by policemen at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: A suspect is seen behind the bars as Basmanny Court of Moscow hold meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on March 8, 2015. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Unidentified suspects detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov are escorted by policemen in a court corridor in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) - The 23-year-old Ukrainian model who was with slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov tearfully recounted Monday their last dinner in a chic Red Square restaurant and their walk onto a nearby bridge - but said she did not see the gunman who pulled the trigger.

The emotional account by Anna Duritskaya came amid a swirl of speculation about who was responsible for the high-profile assassination and what it means for Russia.

While state-run and Kremlin-controlled media focused on a theory that the killing was a provocation aimed at staining President Vladimir Putin, his critics are holding the Russian leader responsible for creating an atmosphere that encouraged the crime by fanning nationalist, anti-Western sentiments and vilifying the opposition.

Duritskaya said she has been questioned extensively by authorities. Shortly after midnight Tuesday, Duritskaya flew into an international airport in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, from where she was swiftly whisked away by a security detail in a car with blacked-out windows.

Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer for Nemtsov who traveled with Duritskaya, said she had been left emotionally drained by investigators' questioning.

"She has given a full and exhaustive account of her last hours with Boris," Prokhorov said. "If any further investigative action is required, she has promised - something she has done publicly - that she will cooperate. The main thing is that the guilty parties be tracked down."

In her first public comments since the killing, Duritskaya said in an interview with Russia's independent Dozhd television that she waited for Nemtsov to meet her Friday night at the Bosco Cafe, a pricey restaurant in the former GUM department store on Red Square. He had just given a radio interview in which he had slammed Putin's "mad, aggressive policy" on Ukraine.

They dined and then walked across a bridge near St. Basil's Cathedral, heading for Nemtsov's apartment across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, she said, her eyes welling with tears.

Duritskaya said didn't see the man who shot Nemtsov, only a car speeding up.

"I don't know where he came from, but he was behind," she said of the gunman. "I didn't see the man. I turned round and all I saw was a light-colored car. I saw neither the brand nor the license plate of the car that was driving away."

After Nemtsov was shot, she saw a snowplow approaching them on the bridge and she said she asked its driver how to call police. The driver gave her the number, then drove away, she added.

TV Center, a station controlled by the Moscow city government, broadcast a poor-resolution video from a web camera that it said showed Nemtsov and Duritskaya shortly before he was killed. A vehicle that TVC identified as a snowplow moved slowly behind the couple, obscuring the view of the shooting. TV Center then circled what it said was the suspected killer jumping into a passing car.

The video, which could not be independently verified, contradicted the initial statement by police, who said Nemtsov was shot from a passing car.

Investigators said they are looking into several possible links for Nemtsov's slaying, including an attempt to destabilize the state, Islamic extremism, the Ukraine conflict and his personal life. They have offered a reward of 3 million rubles (nearly $50,000) for any information.

Tens of thousands of supporters marched Sunday through central Moscow in a silent tribute to Nemtsov. Others mourned him in St. Petersburg and other European cities.

Putin quickly sent condolences to Nemtsov's 86-year old mother, promising her that the perpetrators of the "vile and cynical murder" will be brought to justice.

State television stations focused on allegations that Russia's enemies could be behind the hit, following comment by Putin's spokesman that the president saw the attack as a "provocation" aimed to destabilize the country. Chechnya's Moscow-backed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, openly blamed Western special services.

Kremlin critics pointed out that the site of the killing is one of the most heavily secured parts of the Russian capital, packed with police, plainclothes agents and security cameras.

"The choice of place in front of the Kremlin ... points at the perpetrator's sense of impunity and his link to law enforcement structures," opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov wrote in his blog. "It was made for a picture: a prominent Russian opposition leader lying dead with the Kremlin stars and St. Basil's Cathedral as the backdrop."

Many commentators said that like other key opposition leaders, Nemtsov was constantly shadowed by police, so it would be hard to imagine his killing could go unnoticed by them. Some noted that Nemtsov died on the newly established holiday commemorating the Special Operations Forces, honoring troops who swept through Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, setting stage for its annexation by Russia a year ago.

Nemtsov's killing was the biggest political assassination in Russia since another Kremlin foe, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was shot to death in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Putin's birthday in 2006. Five Chechens were convicted in the case last year, but it has remained unclear who ordered the killing.

Some observers speculated that certain members of a hawkish, isolationist wing of the government could have had a hand in Nemtsov's death, possibly counting on it to provoke outrage abroad and further strain Russia's ties with the West. Those relations already are at their lowest point since the Cold War because of the Ukrainian crisis.

"Russia is at crossroads," Irina Khakamada, who once co-led a liberal party with Nemtsov, said on RBC TV. "Those who did it favored a more aggressive path. It was a demonstration of their omnipotence."

Western officials have called for Russia to conduct a prompt, thorough, transparent and credible investigation into the slaying. Putin has ordered law enforcement chiefs to personally oversee the probe.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday described Nemtsov as a "tireless advocate for his country, an opponent of corruption, and an advocate for human rights and greater transparency."

The business newspaper Kommersant quoted anonymous sources in the Interior Ministry as saying there was no closed-circuit TV video of the killing because the cameras in question were not working at the time.

However, Yelena Novikova, a spokeswoman for Moscow's information technology department, which oversees the city's surveillance cameras, said all cameras "belonging to the city" were operating properly when Nemtsov was killed. She said federal authorities also had surveillance cameras near the Kremlin that are not under her organization's control.

Novikova would not confirm the existence of any video of the killing, saying the police investigation was still underway.

Duritskaya's mother, Inna, who spoke to The Associated Press in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, said she worried that Russian authorities were "putting psychological pressure" on her daughter.

"I am worried that they want to use her, as a citizen of Ukraine, use her as though this situation is somehow something to do with Ukraine," she said Monday. "She has absolutely nothing to do with this killing. She is innocent. Stop abusing my child."

___

Associated Press writers Laura Mills in Moscow, Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine, and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed reporting.


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