The recent murder of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition politician and ex-physicist, on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge very near to the Kremlin in Moscow, raises many questions.
Predictably, Western politicians and mainstream media are pointing the finger at Vladmir Putin, the President of Russia, as the man who signed off on Nemtsov’s execution. In remarkably similar ways to the their response to the downing of MH 17 over Ukraine last year, they have leapt at the opportunity to once more demonise Putin. Proof of course, is immaterial in this game.
Let us be under no illusions, Putin as an ex-KGB officer is perfectly capable of signing Nemtsov’s death warrant and may have done so, but , as I will attempt to demonstrate, that is the more unlikely scenario in this instance. Western media point to other deaths of Russian opposition politicians and oligarchs where some of the evidence points to Russian state apparatus involvement as proof that this time, once again, another key opposition to Putin has been removed. This despite the fact that Putin’s approval rating in Russia remains at around 86% while Nemtsov’s appears to have been less than 5% at the time of his death.
Nemtsov’s political colleagues argue that he was killed to pre-empt his imminent disclosure of proof of Russian military direct involvement in Ukraine. Why his death would prevent that disclosure happening is unknown, or even why Nemtsov would have access to information that was not immediately available to Western politicians via high-resolution spy satellite imagery, is a mystery.
His death certainly resulted in a Moscow march of many thousands of supporters and also presumably included some who want an end to violence murder and political intimidation in the city . The Guardian newspaper disparagingly reported that Moscow Police estimated 7,000 on the march, whereas in fact the police estimates from RT.com talk of around 50,000.
Boris Nemtsov was undoubtedly an interesting person. With a Phd in physics and a significant number of academic papers under his belt for quantum physics, he turned , instead to politics, and quickly became a rising star in Boris Yeltsin’s alcoholic haze of a government after the fall of Soviet Russia becoming Deputy Prime Minister for four months under Yeltsin in 1998 . Credited as being a “reformist”, he later co-founded the the “Union of Right Forces ” party in 1999 , and then opposed its inevitable merge to survive as part of the ‘Right Cause’ party in 2008. In 2012, Nemtsov was appointed co-chair of the Republican Party of Russia – People’s Freedom Party (RPR-PARNAS) which is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party .
Nemtsov and many of the parties he has been affiliated to have been accused, with some truth, of being funded supported and guided by European and American political interests such as the (European) Endowment for Democracy – an agency with distinctly U.S. business and right wing agendas, but portraying itself as a supporter of local democracy. Such philosophies are clearly on a collision course with rising nationalist fervour in many parts of Eastern Europe. Implicated in many of the “colour revolutions” in places like Ukraine and Georgia, and in support of the “moderate” rebels in Syria, the agency plays a lead non government role in supporting U.S. government power and control agendas. Very much because of this American bias and Russian nationalism, rather than their neo-liberal agenda, the political parties Nemtsov was active in, played to an increasingly smaller Russian audience over the years.
Russian opposition activists see Nemtsov’s death as an opportunity; “We need to seriously think what to do from now on,” Leonid Volkov, an opposition leader and organizer of the March 1 memorial, said by phone. “We were at a low point but now some things have crystallized that allow us to make plans. I think it’s the start of a new wave of protests. It’s a real shame it took such an event for that to happen.”
The answer to the question therefore, of “cui bono” ( who benefits) by this death remains complex. It is still certainly possible that Nemtsov’s death was ordered or orchestrated by President Putin or members of his coterie, but given Putin’s professed wish to re-establish positive relations with the West after the annexation of Crimea and supposed military involvement in Eastern Ukraine, this seems unlikely. Russia Today (rt.com) stated that “At the moment, investigators are looking into five possible motives behind Nemtsov’s assassination. ” According to Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, the murder could have been a provocation to destabilize the political situation in Russia. It could also be linked to threats Nemtsov received over his stance on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris or the current war in Ukraine. The politician’s business activities and a possible assault related to his personal life are also being looked into.” Notably, and understandably for their personal safety perhaps! the Moscow Police excluded a state political motivation for the murder. Could Putin have removed Nemtsov because he might be seen to be a leading contender for Presidency if the economic situation deteriorated even further in Russia?- a possible but rather obscure motivation in my view.
Nemtsov certainly had links to what has been termed as the Russian Mafia and oligarchs -to-be , in his role in selling off state assets at bargain prices to criminals after the fall of the Soviet Union- did he still have enemies from those days?-that also seems unlikely; although his recent links to Russian business interests are deemed to be extensive, but unknown to this blogger.
The role of the young girl who accompanied him onto the bridge where he was shot and who escaped entirely unharmed after 4 shots were fired into Nemtsov’s back, warrants investigation. Indeed one may wonder why Western mainstream media is so indignant that she is being held for questioning (as is standard Police practice internationally), and not allowed to return home to the Ukraine. Nemtsov’s was very much opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Russian connection to the Eastern Ukraine rebellion. Such a political view is extremely unpopular and deemed to be unpatriotic in Russia today; was he murdered by Novorussians perhaps because he was considered a traitor?
Or alternatively, was he murdered by his Western intelligence handlers because he was now worth more to them dead than alive? Certainly the track record of Western “intelligence”, would indicate they have absolutely no qualms about torturing, murdering or destroying the lives of anyone who gets in their way to create that ‘better world’ ruled by their funders. Clearly the immediate benefit of his death is to further undermine Putin’s credibility in the eyes of those who read and believe Western mainstream media. The impact on a Russian audience is likely to be negligible given Putin’s high standing with the Russian public.
The Russian opposition is ever hopeful however: “We need to seriously think what to do from now on,” Leonid Volkov, an opposition leader and organizer of the March 1 memorial, said by phone. “We were at a low point but now some things have crystallized that allow us to make plans. I think it’s the start of a new wave of protests. It’s a real shame it took such an event for that to happen.”
So, we are left with an implausible reason for Putin and/or Russian intelligence to kill Nemtsov, i.e. “proof” of Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine; a possible business deal gone wrong, a murder to meet the needs of anti-Russian sentiment in the West, an opportunity for Russian opposition parties to garner local support, or possibly, but unlikely given the murder ‘s locality on a very public bridge, a murder to avenge a romantic relationship gone sour. The death certainly has the look of a targeted killing rather than an act of revenge, and the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge is an ideal public location to stage opposition solidarity demonstrations after the death with a Kremlin backdrop. And four single bullets to the back? hmmmm