Boris Nemtsov, a former opposition leader and critic of Vladimir Putin, was followed by an FSB agent linked to an assassination squad for almost a year before he was shot dead just yards from the Kremlin in 2015, according to a joint investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider and the BBC.
According to his documents, the agent’s name is Valery Sukharev. All the evidence suggests that at the time, he served with the FSB, Russia’s main security agency, the BBC reports:
One of the mandates of the FSB is to manage internal political threats on behalf of the Kremlin, including monitoring movements of people across the country. All flight and train reservations are recorded in an FSB database called Magistral. But the database not only captures the movements of people Russian agents might want to track, it can also be used to reveal the movements of the agents themselves – people like Mr Sukharev. This kind of information is often leaked on to the black market and ends up in the hands of journalists.
Travel data obtained by Bellingcat shows that Nemtsov was followed on 13 return journeys by Sukharev, who in each case was accompanied by a second FSB operative, the group adds. On the first two tailing trips — both to Yaroslavl — Sukharev was accompanied by Dmitry Sukhinin, a newly-uncovered FSB operative who has a background in chemistry and cryptography. On the next 10 overlapping trips — beginning with a 5 July 2014 round-trip to Novosibirsk — Sukharev was accompanied by Alexey Krivoshchekov, another known FSB operative who was subsequently implicated in the operation to poison Alexey Navalny.
“In a corrupt society like Russia, [Magistral] is a double-edged sword,” says Christo Grozev, executive director of Bellingcat. “And it allows people like us to actually go and tail these same spies, these same FSB officers.”