Staunton, February 28 – The murder of Boris Nemtsov within sight of the Kremlin means that “instead of a Maidan,” against which Vladimir Putin has organized, “the Donbass has come” to Russia, a development that means “the little house of cards” that the Kremlin leader had been building has come crashing down, Kirill Martynov says.
In an article in today’s Novaya Gazeta, the commentator argues that “the murder has become the most significant act of political terror in the modern history of Russia” because “now it is fated to become the symbol of that country which we have been building for the last 15 years.”
It is clear, Martynov says, that Nemtsov’s murder is “the continuation of that policy of hatred which has become the de facto standard in government mass media of Russia over the last year. ‘The fifth column’ and ‘national traitors’ must be punished, they have told us. And now this ‘punishment’ has occurred.”
“Regardless of who was the executioner, this blood is on the hands of all who wanted such ‘punishment,’ and who by their words and deeds brought it closer,” the Novaya Gazeta commentator says.
A few hours before Nemtsov was killed, NTV reported that it was looking into the way in which the March 1 protest represented an effort by him and others to “prepare a Russian Maidan…Only instead of a ‘Maidan,’ the Donbass came to Moscow,” in the form of bullets in his back, “the last political argument in the Russian Federation.”
Over the last 15 years since Putin came to power, Martynov writes, “opposition figures have been attacked in the Internet” and on the streets and at their press conferences. Now, a line has been crossed, and they can be killed as well. And the Kremlin has created the conditions for this to happen.
In recent months, the commentator continues, “the state willingly and openly has shared its monopoly on physical force by closing its eyes to the actions of organizations like the ‘Anti-Maidan,’” and thus showing that “the government does not intend to guarantee the security of citizens with ‘incorrect’ political views.”
Until now, “there had been a quite severe prohibition against the murder of political opponents in Putin’s Russia,” Martynov says. But as of last night, those “prohibitions have fallen away,” and that represents “a point of no return and of the radical destabilization of the domestic situation in Russia.”
It is “impossible” just now to predict what the consequences of this will be. It is possible that the regime will use this murder as the occasion for a further crackdown against any independent action in society. There is a long tradition in Russia for doing exactly that, Martynov points out.
But it is also possible that there will be a new rise of opposition activity. After all, the Novaya Gazeta commentator says, “we recognize at last just how high the stakes are.”