Newspaper article International New York Times

Partner of Slain Putin Critic Can't Leave ; Ukrainian Model, 23, Says She's Being Held as Witness by Investigators

Newspaper article International New York Times

Partner of Slain Putin Critic Can't Leave ; Ukrainian Model, 23, Says She's Being Held as Witness by Investigators

Article excerpt

Anna Duritskaya, a Ukrainian model, said the Russian police were not allowing her to return to Ukraine, though they had not formally detained her.

They met three years ago, by some accounts on a vacation to Turkey, and were soon enough a couple.

If Anna Duritskaya, a Ukrainian model, wanted to trade her youth and beauty for wealth and power, she could have done well to choose somebody other than Boris Y. Nemtsov, the beleaguered Russian opposition leader who was in and out of jail.

And yet Ms. Duritskaya was with Mr. Nemtsov often, and with him on Friday evening when someone shot him to death in the highest- profile political assassination during the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin. She is now a key witness.

In interviews with Russian news media on Monday, Ms. Duritskaya said the Russian police were not allowing her to return to Ukraine, though they had not formally detained her.

Her unclear status drew objections from Ukraine's Foreign Ministry and her Russian lawyer, and it is a first significant step by investigators in a case that Western officials including Secretary of State John Kerry have implored Russia to solve swiftly and openly.

Ms. Duritskaya said in a Skype and telephone interview with Dozhd, a Russian television station, that she was staying at the apartment of an acquaintance in Moscow and under the round-the- clock guard of police officers who were holding her against her will.

"I now have the status of a witness," Ms. Duritskaya said. "I gave all testimony that was possible, and I don't understand why I am still on the territory of the Russian Federation, as I want to leave to be with my mother, who is sick and in a difficult psychological state."

"I don't understand what else I can do, and why they cannot let me go," she said.

Ms. Duritskaya said she waited on Friday evening in the Bosco Cafe in the GUM department store on Red Square for Mr. Nemtsov to finish an interview on the Echo of Moscow radio station. The two had dinner, and then started the walk home.

At no point, she said, did she notice anything suspicious. And she suggested she had little to help investigators, as the assassin shot Mr. Nemtsov in the back as the couple walked side by side.

Her boyfriend crumpled on the sidewalk, and by the time she looked back, she said, she saw neither the man's face nor a license plate of the getaway car. She ran to a nearby snowplow machine, she said, to ask for help, then returned to the body and waited, by her account, about 10 minutes for police to arrive.

The relationship of the older, famous politician and the young model from a country many Russians now believe to be their enemy in a war has drawn intense interest from Russia's politically hewed tabloid press, and the Investigative Committee, the law enforcement organization taking the lead in the case, has said it is examining possible motives for the murder stemming from Mr. …

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