Nemtsov's Report on Russian Soldiers in Ukraine to be Published Next Month

Boris Nemtsov
People walk past flowers at the site where Russian politician Boris Nemtsov was killed. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

A report about Russian involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine, which opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on before he was murdered in February, will be published next month, his supporters say.

The politician's close friend and associate Ilya Yashin, who leads the Moscow branch of Nemtsov's RPR-Parnas party and who was present at the scene of his murder just 20 minutes after he was gunned down, made the announcement on Nemtsov's Facebook page earlier this week.

The report will claim that Moscow discharged soldiers from the Russian army in order to send them to Ukraine as 'volunteers', as well as denying compensation to the families of men who were killed while fighting there.

Sources cited in the report include family members of those who have lost loved ones while fighting in Ukraine, who contacted Nemtsov in January this year hoping to compel the Russian Ministry of Defence into paying compensation.

"We have managed to communicate with people who were Nemtsov's sources," Yashin said in the Facebook post. "They were very much afraid to speak while he was alive. The murder of Boris, as you understand, did not give them new courage, so they were reluctant to get in contact."

The official line from Moscow continues to be that the Russian soldiers in Ukraine are fighting of their own accord as volunteers. However, as Newsweek reported last September, there is substantial evidence suggesting this is not the case. There are stories of secret funerals being held for soldiers who were killed in Ukraine and testimony from those still fighting in the country.

"The plan was to conceal this way the involvement of our army in military action, presenting soldiers as volunteers," Yashin continued in the message. "Military unit commanders gave their word to guarantee that in case of an injury or death, their relatives would receive monetary compensation, comparable to the sums that had been paid out last summer. In practice, relatives received no compensation this time."

There had been fears that the report would not be published due to government interference and the reluctance of family members to speak out. On the day before Nemtsov was killed, he resorted to scribbling his findings on a note to his aide, worried that his offices were being bugged by Russian security services, according to Reuters.

"Paratroopers from Ivanovo got in touch with me: 17 killed, no money paid, but they are afraid to speak so far," the handwritten note reportedly read, according to a photocopy posted by Yashin.

Yashin decided to continue working on Nemtsov's report because the late politician believed its publication could help end the war, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives since last May.

Last September, Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, the main organisation representing the Russian troops' families, estimated that up to 15,000 soldiers had been sent to fight in Ukraine.

Nemtsov was killed on February 27, after being shot four times in the back while walking with his girlfriend across a bridge within sight of the Kremlin.

He was the most prominent opposition figure to be killed during Vladimir Putin's 15-year presidency. High profile Kremlin-critics and dissidents including Garry Kasparov, Alexey Navalny and Yashin himself have all accused Putin of being responsible for Nemtsov's death, but the Kremlin has denied any involvement.