Cover-up alleged after Nemtsov verdict

Andrew Osborn and Svetlana Reiter

A court has convicted five men of murdering Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, but the late politician's allies said the investigation had been a cover-up and that the people who had ordered his killing remained at large.

Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics, was murdered in 2015 as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin after dining with his girlfriend. Aged 55, he had been working on a report examining Russia's role in Ukraine. His killing sent a chill through opposition circles.

After more than eight months of hearings, a jury trial convicted five ethnic Chechen men of his murder, including the man prosecutors said pulled the trigger, Zaur Dadayev, a former soldier in Chechnya.

The court said the four others had acted as his accomplices and that the group had been promised a bounty of 15 million roubles ($330,000) for the high-profile assassination.

"It's the biggest crime of the century and yet they haven't identified the real organisers or those who ordered it," Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer for the late politician's daughter, told reporters after the verdict.

"The Russian government was not prepared to look into the entourage of (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov," he said, despite his view that one of the masterminds was a close associate of the Chechen strongman.

Zhanna Nemtsova, the slain politician's daughter, repeatedly said she wanted Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya who calls himself "Putin's footsoldier", to be questioned about what he knew about the case. Kadyrov has praised the trigger man Dadayev as a "true patriot of Russia".

Kadyrov, who has denied allegations he was personally involved, was never summoned by the court.

Nemtsova said she was disappointed but not surprised that her father's murder case remained unsolved.

"Clearly, investigators and the court did not strive to establish the truth," Nemtsova said in a statement on social media. "It was of course not a proper investigation, but only an imitation of one."