By Patricia H Kushlis
The Blame Game had already begun less than 24 hours after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on a bridge in the shadow of the Kremlin. The Russian propaganda machine – well in overdrive for a year – is now pointing the finger at the US and Ukrainians by circulating a fake photograph of US Ambassador John Tefft laying a Ukrainian flag at Nemtsov’s memorial among others. Huh?
Ridiculous, you say? Cover up you ask? For whom you might ask? Why such quick accusations? And why was Nemtsov murdered Al Capone-style in a crime befitting of the Sicilian mafia or Mexican drug lords?
Could it be because Russia’s primary senior opposition figure left standing by a crafty and bloodthirsty regime – until the middle of the night of February 27 that is – publicly objected to the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea, accused it of rampant corruption and Russia’s subsequent illegal actions in Eastern Ukraine?
Were these the straws that broke the Kremlin’s back? Who were the culprits? How close were they/are they to Putin? Why would they fear an honest and devoted politician like Boris Nemtsov enough to murder him? Was he really that much of a threat? And, if history is a predictor of the present, why will they never be charged and we never know? Of course, some poor schmuck is likely to be brought forward to face the music and bow before Russian style justice but the real people behind what was likely a hired killing will continue to operate with impunity just as they have in the past. If justice hasn’t happened thus far despite a series of unsolved politically motivated murders in Russia since the turn of the 21st century - not to mention before - how likely is it to happen now?
Was it because the 55-year old Nemtsov was the last major opposition leader of Putin’s generation still active? Was it because the protest march he helped to organize had the public support of Mikhail Khordorkovsky, exiled former political prisoner and oligarch who had challenged Putin’s leadership before Putin had him tossed in jail for a decade and who had signed the petition supporting the anti-Kremlin demonstration to be held on February 28?
Or was it because Nemtsov had simply stepped in for younger opposition leader, lawyer and blogger Aleksei Navalny who the Kremlin had so thoughtfully sent to jail for 15 days for handing out pamphlets on the Moscow Metro so as to prevent him from "publicizing" the first serious anti-Kremlin demonstration in months? Or more far-fetched, was it ISIS supporters who murdered Nemtsov because he was Jewish as some of the wilder propaganda accusations suggest?
It’s not, of course, the first time Putin’s Kremlin has resorted to gangland style killings or Stalin era poisonings to decimate the opposition – no matter how weak that opposition was. As Andrew Kramer of The New York Times and others have pointed out: investigative journalist Anna Politovskaya was murdered in an elevator in 2006 after reporting on the Kremlin’s brutal war against the Chechens which had vaulted Putin to power for his tough-guy stance; human rights worker Natalia Estemirova also involved in reporting on the Chechen conflict was abducted from her home in Grozny and killed by unknown assailants in 2009, and Aleksandr Litvinenko, the KGB defector who was poisoned in London by polonium: the trial against the primary suspect – now hiding behind Russian parliamentary immunity - is finally being allowed to proceed in British Courts.