Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov

March 3, 2015
People carry a huge banner reading 'those bullets were for every one of us" and the Ukrainian expression "heroes never die!' as they march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov gunned down on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 near the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 1, 2015. Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Alexey Navalny, the opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger, has posted a piece on his blog about the murder of Boris Nemtsov, his fellow coordinator of protest marches and other projects challenging the Putin regime. He was unable to attend his colleague’s funeral today because authorities wouldn’t give him leave from serving a 15-day jail sentence for leafletting. Back on February 16, Navalny and Nemtsov had gone out together to the Moscow metro to pass out leaflets inviting people to a Spring opposition march originally scheduled for March 1, and talk to them about the issues highlighted in the march — the war in Ukraine and economic crisis in Russia. Navalny, who had by that time racked up a number of “unauthorized demonstration” charges was put in jail. Sadly, the Spring march later had to be converted into a funeral procession for Nemtsov.

Navalny, younger than Nemtsov and certainly a nationalist where Nemtsov was a universalist, was at times competitive with him and they didn’t always agree on certain issues. Yet Navalny worked very closely with Nemtsov and is in a better position than most, having suffered the brunt of regime on himself and his family, to judge why Nemtsov would be singled out for assassination — and by whom. The following is a full translation of his piece — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick.

Today, Boris Nemtsov is being buried. I couldn’t pay him my respects as the Moscow courts informed me that there was nothing so extraordinary that had happened for the sake of which the serving of an administrative arrest could be suspended.

Well, that means I’ll visit him at the Troyekurovsky Cemetery — now he will have enough time for everybody.

I’ve thought about all this for several days and now I want to share my thoughts.

Without emotions, as far as this is possible.

1. I believe that Nemtsov was killed by members of a government (intelligence) or pro-government organization on orders from the political leadership of the country (including Vladimir Putin).

It is a question only of how this order was formulated:

– You must kill Nemtsov.
– You must do a hugely sensational action.

2. That’s enough, repeating the nonsense about how “Boris was killed by an atmosphere of hatred.” What atmosphere, exactly, eh? We’ve had the atmosphere of hatred since 2007, and in recent months, we have seen the organized construction of pro-government extremist-terrorist groups, directly declaring as their goal combating the opposition where the police cannot.

The most vivid and obvious examples:

– the bearded Kadyrov Hurons with machine guns at the stadium [the reference is to fighters loyal to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov–The Interpreter]. This is a real, outright unlawful armed formation under the leadership of the head of a subject of the RF [Russian Federation], who by law doesn’t even command the Emergencies Ministry.

It is open criminality, which was discussed and praised on state TV channels.

– The Anti-Maidan which, unlikely previous analogous groups consists not of mass event participants who are paid 500 rubles ($8) a piece and soccer hooligans, but are made up of the 500-ruble masses plus real Moscow suburban bandits and raiders [see Anti-Maidan Launched by Nationalists, Bikers, Afghan Veterans, Cossacks] which had a lot of power during Governor Boris Gromov’s rule, but have been squeezed to the periphery in recent years. Now they are the ones in demand and are happy to serve.

Ask any suburban Moscow businessman politician about the deals of the “Gromov Afghan veterans,” and you will hear a lot of interesting things. [Gromov is a hard-liner, member of the Communist Party, founder of the patriotic group Fighting Brotherhood. He was a former Soviet commander who was the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan–The Interpreter]

And so that the psychological portrait is clear, see this video, where the godfather of the Anti-Maidanites, the former governor, explains where he gets money from.

These are the organizations that are created for the execution of acts of terror, one of which occurred at night on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.

3. The extremist-terrorist organizations about which I am writing are created not as a reaction to an “unarticulated demand” but directly in meetings at the Kremlin.

This is not freelancing, but directly Putin, Nikolai Patrushev [former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and current secretary of the Security Council of Russia], Sergei Ivanov [chief of staff of the presidential administration], Aleksandr Bortnikov [head of the FSB], Vyacheslav Volodin [first deputy chief of staff of the presidential administrations] and the others there [in the Kremlin].

At such a meeting it was said – make an assignment to do a sensational action.

4. Please, let’s stop the hypocritical lying about how “It’s not advantageous for Putin.”

It’s advantageous for the Pope, then, evidently.

Everything’s not an advantage for Putin.

The attempt to murder [blogger Oleg] Kashin was not an advantage; stupid and groundless arrests are not advantageous; falsification of the elections with high ratings is not advantageous, any attacks on opposition members are not advantageous and so forth and so on.

Nevertheless, all of this happens and precisely because it is advantageous. You shouldn’t lie to yourselves. It is advantageous. Fear must grow, economic problems must be compensated by police control. If the simple fabrication of criminal cases doesn’t yield the necessary degree of fear, the demonstrative force is needed; otherwise no one will believe in your toughness.

As the classics of the theater said: if in the first act bandits from Anti-Maidan are hanging on the wall, or bearded Basmachi, then in the third act, they must begin to shoot.

Those who are saying “It’s not advantageous for Putin” can go into the same corner with “Murderers are not advantageous to Duvalier” or “the Red Terror is not advantageous to Stalin” or “Pinochet got everybody together at the stadium for a soccer game.”

It is advantageous to Putin. Open a history book, it is all written there.

5. Along with this, we find the reasoning, “Nemtsov was not popular and not influential, what was the point of murdering him?”

Well, go through in your mind the current system and non-system opposition members and try to make up a list of those who are more influential than Nemtsov. Who are actually more influential and create problems for the government not solvable by a phone call from the Kremlin to the “opposition member” and his boss.

You won’t even find five names.

I maintain, not as kind words for the deceased, but as a sober appraisal: Boris was one of the most problematic politicians for the Kremlin.

– He was one of a few who exposed the corruption of Putin and his close circle, citing concrete names. Are there a lot of people who do that? In our country, it is allowed only to speak of corruption “as a phenomenon.”

– He substantively understood topics that were sensitive for the Kremlin. Gazprom, the energy complex as a whole and so on. His reports (both co-authored and independently) were some of the most powerful promotional tools of recent years, they infuriated the leadership, I know for sure.

– He was a consistent liberal, open for dialogue with all political forces. He spoke normally with both nationalists and leftists.

– (Very important) He was prepared to run for election and was not afraid of losing. And he didn’t stand on the positions of “I’m tough and I will only run for president (or the State Duma).

– His campaigns in Sochi and Yaroslavl were rather humorous, he could be fought with only through falsification.

Do you know of an opposition faction in a regional legislature, which shook things up and forced everyone to take them into account and removed a vice governor from his post? I do. This is the faction of Boris Nemtsov in the Yaroslavl Region legislature.

– He was able to work with the media and knew how to master new information technology (show me an “influencer” with a large number of followers on Facebook). His video clips which he put together with Leonid Martynyuk have millions of views, by the way.

On the whole, I could go on listing things for a long time. Nemtsov did something, and didn’t wait for the moment of the “collapse of the regime,” unlike many others — that was his influence and his danger.

6. The insanity of the theories put forth by the fake general from the Investigative Committee additionally point to a “Kremlin footprint.”

Some sort of ISIS, murder for the sake of provocation. What sort of madness is that?

Unfortunately, since the Investigative Committee is involved exclusively in the fabrication of criminal cases and some sort of PR garbage like opening up endless cases “against genocide and Right Sector,” nothing but lies and attempts to cover up the organizer of murderers is worth expecting from them.

Again, you don’t have to go far, recall the case of the attack on Kashin. [Kashin, a popular blogger, was assaulted by unidentified men and severely injured, after he published a series of posts on the destruction of a forest in Khimki to build a highway, and also exposed aggressive pro-Kremlin youth groups created by the government–The Interpreter]. Any and all theories are elaborated except the obvious: Turchak and Yakemenko [the reference is to Andrei Turchak, governor of Pskov Region, former coordinator of youth policy for United Russia, whose father is friendly with Putin, and Vasily Yakemenko, head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, a close ally of Vyacheslav Surkov, a top Kremlin official, both of whom were personally criticized and exposed by Kashin.]. The investigation protects them.

And it will be the same way here. Imagine that the Investigative Committee will establish that Anti-Maidan activists or the latest “Heroes of Russia” from Chechnya killed Nemtsov.

Let us suppose that they even establish the motive for the murder — defense of the incorrectly-understood interests of V.V. Putin.”

What next? They will announce this.

We understand, after all, that in this case, they will even more quickly announce that the murder was planned by Boris Berezovsky, not long before his death.

7. The only theory of the murder not related to the involvement of the federal government which can be seriously reviewed is a regional authority. Nemtsov had serious bad blood with the governors of the Yaroslavl Region and the local crooks. At all our recent meetings, Borya [Boris’ nickname] told me what machinations he had exposed and how the leadership of the region hated him.

8. Could I be mistaken? I am confident of my theory, but of course, anyone could be mistaken.

The only thing that could refute my theory is the rapid solving of the murder with the discovery not only of the executors but the contractors. An open trial of them with full transparency of the materials of the case, including the investigation files. No state secrets at all. If there are materials that are sensitive regarding private life, then relatives and lawyers can obtain access to them and serve as a guarantor for us that there are neither black spots or white blanks in the investigation of the murder of Boris Nemtsov.