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Suspects arrested in Nemtsov murder investigation

The weekend saw a flurry of developments in the investigation of the recent assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

Russian authorities arrested five men Saturday in connection with Nemtsov’s murder, one of whom allegedly confessed to the crime.

Another suspect blew himself up during a standoff with police Saturday night, according to a Russian news outlet.

A spokeswoman for the Moscow court handling the case, Anna Fadeyeva, said two of the suspects, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, were charged with Nemtsov’s murder Sunday, Russian state media reported.

“Three [individuals] remain under the status of suspects,” Fadeyeva said.

One of the three suspects is Shagit Gubashev, the brother of Anzor. The other two are Ramzan Bakhayev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov.

Judge Natalya Mushnikova said Sunday that Dadayev had signed a confession, according to state media.

“Dadayev’s involvement is confirmed by his confession,” Mushnikova said.

The other four suspects maintain their innocence. According to state-run Sputnik News, Eskerkhanov says he has an alibi.

“At the time of the murder, I was at work as I usually am every day. There are many people, my colleagues, who will confirm this,” Eskerkhanov told the court.

All five suspects are from Chechnya, a majority-Muslim republic in the Caucasus region of Southern Russia, where Dadayev served for 10 years in a police battalion.

In an apartment in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, a sixth suspect blew himself up with one grenade after tossing another at law enforcement officials demanding his surrender Saturday night, according to reports by the Russian news agency Interfax.

Russian officials have cited various potential motives for Nemtsov’s murder, including that he was killed in an attempt to destabilize the Russian government by casting suspicion on Russian President Vladimir Putin or that Nemtsov was murdered by Islamic extremists.

On Sunday evening, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov posted on Instagram that Dadayev was known to him as a “deeply religious person” who was “shocked” by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

However, there is no clear evidence that Dadayev’s motivations were religious, if indeed he is responsible for Nemtsov’s murder, and many are skeptical of the official explanations.

Nemtsov was killed in downtown Moscow in a brazen shooting late on Feb. 27.

The crime’s proximity to the heavily-guarded Kremlin, as well as the fact that Moscow police say security cameras on the bridge where Nemtsov was gunned down were not working at the time of the shooting have prompted some in the opposition to accuse Putin of ordering the assassination.

Others have stopped short of explicitly blaming the Russian president, arguing instead that Putin’s demonization of the opposition created an oppressive political atmosphere that made the killing possible.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, regional governor and physicist, was one of Putin’s most visible critics.

Tens of thousands of people attended a mass rally in Moscow following Nemtsov’s death, and thousands more paid their respects at his funeral Tuesday.