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Top suspect in Russian opposition murder wounded in Ukraine

Ruslan Geremeev, a Chechen fighter long suspected of involvement in the 2015 killing of liberal politician Boris Nemtsov, has been wounded during the fighting in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, but is recovering in hospital, the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov revealed on Tuesday.

It was Geremeev’s unit that put up the Chechen flag on the Mariupol city hall last week, Kadyrov said on his Telegram account. The Chechen commander was wounded “during the continuing fighting for the city” and ended up in the hospital.

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“On my way to Mariupol I visited my dear brother and personally saw that he was not in mortal danger. He is on the mend and will soon be back in the ranks,” Kadyrov added, calling Geremeev “a real soldier and true patriot.”

Geremeev was never formally accused of involvement in the February 2015 death of Nemtsov, a liberal politician who was gunned down in Moscow while walking along the river with his Ukrainian girlfriend. Russian investigators sought to interview him in relation to Nemtsov’s murder, which a Moscow court in June 2017 ruled had been a contract killing. 

Five Chechens were sentenced to prison for carrying out the hit, but the person who commissioned it was never identified. The US blamed Geremeev for Nemtsov’s death and placed him on the sanctions list in 2019, offering no evidence of his involvement.

Chechen units have taken part in the fighting for Mariupol, a coastal city in southeastern Ukraine which has long been held by “Azov,” the Ukrainian regiment openly using Nazi insignia. 

Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state. 

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it had been planning to retake the Donbass by force.

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