On Friday evening, Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed on a bridge near Red Square in central Moscow. You might be asking yourself “Who is Boris Nemtsov, and why is this news?” It’s a long story.Boris Nemtsov first gained notice here in the West in the early 1990s. A former research fellow at the Gorky Radio-Physics Research Institute, his first taste of activism was in 1986 through organizing a protest movement to stop the building of a nuclear power plant in his area.
In 1989, he ran for the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies on a reform platform, which proposed such radical ideas for the time as a multi-party democracy and private enterprise. He lost that election, but ran for the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic representing Gorky (now known as Nizhny Novgorod) in 1990 and won by defeating 12 other candidates for the seat.
He became a member of the “Reform Coalition” of the Parliament, and became a friend and supporter of Boris Yeltsin, who was impressed with Nemtsov’s work on agricultural reform and the liberalization of foreign trade. He was a vocal supporter of Yeltsin during the 1991 coup attempt that brought about the end of the Soviet Union, and was rewarded for his loyalty by being appointed Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region.
As Governor, he implemented a free market economic reform program which led to the Nizhny Novgorod region being called the “Laboratory of Reform.” In 1997, Nemtsov was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, and was considered to be the favorite to be elected President of Russia in the 2000 elections. However, his political career took a turn for the worse with the Russian stock market crash of 1998 and the following economic crisis; he resigned his post, was reappointed and then resigned again when Yeltsin dissolved the government and named Vladmir Putin as his successor.In 1999, Nemtsov co-founded the Union of Rightist Forces and became the Deputy Speaker of the Duma (roughly equivalent to our House of Representatives) in 2000. However, Nemtsov strongly opposed Putin’s rolling back of democratic and economic reform policies, while co-founder Anatoly Chubais was more willing to go along with Putin’s plan. This led to the Union losing all their seats in the Duma, and Nemtsov resigned from the Union leadership in 2003.
After his resignation, Nemtsov became involved in Ukrainian politics. In the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections, Nemtsov supported Viktor Yushchenko, while the Russian government supported Yushchenko’s opponent.
Yushchenko won, and appointed Nemtsov to be an economic adviser with his main focus being rebuilding ties between Ukraine and Russia. This didn’t last long, as Nemtsov criticized both Putin and the Ukrainian cabinet for being corrupt, which resulted in Yushchenko relieving him of his post.
In 2009, Nemtsov along with Gary Kasparov founded Solidarnost (Solidarity), an opposition movement. In 2010, Nemtsov and others founded the “For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption” party, which in turn became the People’s Freedom Party.
During this time, Nemtsov was arrested multiple times during protests against Putin and his policies; especially those that restricted freedom of speech. He was a staunch supporter of Ukraine joining the European Union, and was a vocal critic of the Crimea annexation.
Which brings us back to yesterday’s events. A few hours before he died, Nemtsov went on Ekho Mosky radio to call on Moscow residents to join a march scheduled for Sunday. Hours later, he was killed; just one in a string of murders of opponents of Vladmir Putin. These murders include journalist Anna Politkovskaya, human rights researcher Natalia Estemirova and the KGB defector Aleksandr V. Litvinenko.
Putin ordered Russia’s top law enforcement chiefs to personally oversee the probe of Nemtsov’s killing, and presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated: “Putin noted that this cruel murder has all the makings of a contract hit and is extremely provocative.” Gee – you really think so?
If the Nemtsov investigation follows the same pattern that the others have, some low-level criminal will eventually be detained, but there won’t be any real investigation into who ordered the killing. Occupy World Writes calls for an international investigation into the murder of Nemtsov, as well as the other prominent Putin opponents who’ve met a violent death in recent years. The leaders of the world need to realize that they aren’t above the law.