On Murder of Boris Nemtsov

Any murder is a crime and a tragedy, but if it turns out that Boris Nemtsov has been killed for his political views, then it is also a very serious setback for the entire Russia. Recall Churchill's dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Truism, but still: democracy cannot function without opposition, which in turn cannot function if its leaders are killed for their views.  A nation without a robust opposition that is capable of challenging the authorities on key issues, which determine the course of the country's development, suffers from a tunnel vision, blindly following the lead of those who may have no idea whether they are headed in the right direction because they have not had a real debate on pros and cons direction with someone who wish their country well, but may have dissenting views, which they are not afraid to express.Unlike some of the simulacra in the current parliament, Nemtsov was a real deal, in true opposition, live, thinking, improvising, fighting for future of Russia as he saw it, even if his view was in minority.
Boris Nemtsov, as far as I can recall, is the highest former Russian official to have been killed in post-Communist Russia.
He served as first deputy PM in Viktor Chernomyrdin's government and then Sergei Kirienko's government during presidential rule of Boris Yeltsin, but was fired and then transitioned to opposition after Putin took over.
His latest party was  represented in the Yaroslavl regional parliament. The latest marches of opposition, he would co-organize, would draw 20,000 at most (1/5th of  what the peak protests of winter of 2011-2012 would attract). In short, I cannot say Nemtsov and his supporters posed an existential threat to the authorities, but I cannot  fully rule out that he has crossed someone powerful in the Russian elite. His friends say he has been close to completing preparations for a new expose that would prove involvement of the Kremlin and Russian military to the fighting in Ukraine. But such an expose would not have caused a political landslide in Russia, where almost half of population say they would reacted positively if had turned out that the Russian military were fighting in Ukraine, according to Levada Center.
It could have also been the case that some of the radical groups decided to kill Nemtsov for his staunchly liberal. He could have become a target for anti-war views, including his opposition to Russia's involvement in the Ukraine crisis, for instance (recall how ultranationalists have been convicted of killing lawyer Stanislav Margelov for going after their 'comrades-in-arms'.)
Or it  could have also been a provocation by Putin’s opponents in hopes of stirring massive protests. Note that murderer(s) chose to gun Nemtsov at a downtown bridge with the Kremlin in sight even though it is generally more difficult to get away from such an area, as there are more security cameras and policemen in the area, than in, say, suburbs. I recall regularly spotting traffic policemen when driving along that bridge.
Whatever the motive, that the gunman(men) chose such a central location could have meant to send a political signal. It could have been an effort to make the murder more brazen, and, therefore, to provoke greater public outlash (although the choice of the location could have also meant that the gunmen were amateurs who didn't think things through, but it is less likely).
Another motive could have been some sort of a business dispute – Nemtsov was known to have lent money for business in the past and even sued one person in court for failing to pay the debt back. I am not implying by any means that particular debtor is involved (as that case has been resolved in court). But I would note that in Russia some debtors find it cheaper to order hits on people they borrow money from than to return the money. Now Ilya Yashin said Nemtsov was not involved in any kind of business in the past years, but lending money, if not at an interest, is not a business.
Finally, the murder could have occured as a result of a jealousy – Nemtsov was a womanizer, after all, though I find this version less likely.
Whatever motives are, I hope the murder gets solved and the murderer(s) and those behind what looked like a well organized hit get punished duly.
I remember Boris Nemtsov from days when I covered occasionally Russian government sittings as a journalist in the 1990s. He struck me then and afterwards as a very bright, colorful and energetic person with a good sense of humor, intellectual, yet approachable. Even after losing his government post, he would still be smiling and upbeat whenever I saw him speak, be it hearings on a proposal for reform of the Russian military by the Union of Right Forces, or a rally.  He was an outstanding citizen of Russia even if his views were not shared by all.
Rest in peace, Boris Nemtsov. You are going to be missed.
Update 1: Quite a few people have pointed out how promotion of intolerance of dissent may have been a contributing factor. I agree.
Update 2: Note that the only other first deputy premier in Russia's March 1997-1998 cabinet-Chubais-has also been a target of an assassination attempt.
Update 3: That the gunman had left the witness alive and used bullets, which were produced by 2 different plans more than 22 years ago, indicates he (or she) was either not a professional or tried to pretend that he was not a professional.
Update 4: Add that Nemtsov also served in Kirienko's government.
Update 5: That the investigators know that 3 cars have alternated to trail Nemtsov's car on the day of the murder as well as when the surveillance team ordered the hit team to deploy to the bridge increases hope that the case will be solved, if there is political will to do so. Alternation of vehicles and issuing of orders would have required communication: unless done by radio,location from where the calls were made could be pintpointed.


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