Russia Update: Opposition Mourns Leader Boris Nemtsov, Assassinated Near Kremlin

February 28, 2015
Flowers laid at the site of the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Attached to the bouquet is the leaflet advertising the opposition march for March 1, now cancelled, which Nemtsov was to lead. The slogan says, "Spring: Without you it will not come." February 28, 2015. Photo by Philipp Kireev

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.


Boris Nemtsov, opposition leader, has been shot dead two days before he was to lead a protest march against Russia’s war on Ukraine and the government’s handling of economic crisis.

Special features:

Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo: ‘It is Seen as Correct to Initiate Annexation of Eastern Regions of Ukraine to Russia’
Former Russian Intelligence Officers Behind Boisto “Track II” Talks – and Now the Flawed Minsk Agreement.

See also our Russia This Week stories:

Ultranationalists Angry over ‘Capitulation’ of Minsk Agreement,
‘Anti-Maidan’ Launched by Nationalists, Cossacks, Veterans, Bikers

The Guild War – How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists?

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.

Further Analysis of Videotape Reportedly Showing Scene of Boris Nemtsov’s Murder

As we reported earlier, a videotape from the security camera trained on the bridge where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated has sparked a lot of online commentary.

Questions remain about the authenticity of this tape. It was not obtained and shown by LifeNews, which has produced a number of the videotapes of Nemtsov before his murder, but by TV Tsentr (Center), the fourth largest state TV station in Russia owned by the city of Moscow.  The tapes from security cameras in the vicinity of the Kremlin would likely be carefully guarded, and it is not known how the videos were obtained or the motives for releasing them.

Here’s a translation by The Interpreter of the title and note on the video:

All-weather camera records murder of Boris Nemtsov. Exclusive.

is a video from the all-weather camera which films Bolshoi Moskvoretsky
Bridge round the clock. With an accuracy to the second, it records the
crime. The quality of the footage is not high but the cars and
silhouettes of the people are visible.

The first question relates to the type of vehicle seen in the video
which seems to be involved in the murder because it stops just as the
shooting occurs, possibly as part of a plot to block the scene from the
view of cameras. It has been variously described as a “snowplow” or a
“street-cleaner” and the idea that it could be a snowplow has seemed
particularly suspicious to some because there was has been no snow in
Moscow in the last week.

Of course, any Russian would easily explain how a snowplow could still
go out on streets free of snow — bureaucratic inertia and ineptitude
could mean that the vehicle was sent out on its route anyway to “fulfill the plan.”

But what’s more likely is that this is a multipurpose vehicle, of
the type known to operate in Moscow, such as seen in these photos in an
ad for one for sale
. The truck can sweep streets, spray water to clean
streets, spread sand, and also plow snow.



The next question then concerns whether the presence of a
city-owned vehicle cleaning the street possibly involved in a murder is a
marker for government involvement. While that may be the case, it’s
also possible that the city workers and possibly traffic police involved
in stopping traffic later were bribed. This is a very common feature of
Russian line and has also been a factor in past high-profile crimes.

Pavel Pryannikov, a friend of Nemtsov’s and well-known blogger in Moscow, has made the following comment on the video on his Facebook page (translated by The Interpreter)

From this video we see:

1. The murderer waited for Nemtsov on the bridge. He is the one to make the shots.
2. His work was high-quality – the snow-cleaning machine blocked him from the camera.
Immediately after the shots were fine, a car drove up to him, and the
murderer got into it. The color of the car is not white (this color has
been mentioned in recent days).

4. The biggest question – two
men who soon after the murder of Nemtsov ran from the bridge down the
steps under the bridge, and when the first police car arrived (after
about 7-8 minutes), they climbed the stairs to the site of the murder.

Pryanikov’s reading of the video was echoed in the New York Times:

A snowplow blocked the scene. But the video, which has not been
independently verified, appears to show the shooter was hiding on a
stairway on Moskvoretsky Bridge waiting for Mr. Nemtsov and Ms.
Duritskaya to pass. Later, the figure of the supposed shooter runs to a
getaway car that pulls up on the bridge.

The blogger @DaveyPetros at the site Ukraine@War has analyzed the video and mapped the route of the vehicles.

First he found a good picture on Panoramio taken by Andrei S. Shulgin in 2010 that has a panoramic
view of the scene. Nemtsov was killed on the Bolshoi Maloretsky [Great
Moscow River] Bridge, about 30 meters from the Vasilevsky Spusk [St.
Basil’s Descent] that leads to St. Basil’s Cathedral. The place is
marked in red:


Then @DaveyPetros drew the route on Google Maps:


And also the getaway car’s route:


He surmises that the killer could have ridden on the back of the
cleaning vehicle or garbage truck, using the step and hand rail provided
on the back of such vehicles, which would make it easier for him to
jump on and off it.

Read more here.

We note that this picture taken in the past also show orange
vehicles in the parking lots that could be the type of cleaning vehicle
still in use today.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Surveillance Video Reportedly Shows Assassination of Russian Opposition Leader

Two important videos have emerged which may shed clues into how Boris Nemtsov was killed, but this first video may be the most important clue yet. The video appears to be a surveillance camera overlooking the road where Nemtsov was killed. About 20 seconds in the video slows and highlights someone, reportedly Nemtsov, on the bridge walking. Right after this the video highlights some sort of truck with blinking lights driving slowly behind him. At one point the truck blocks the camera’s view of the person who is reportedly Nemtsov, and soon after it looks like someone runs out from behind the truck and gets into another car which then speeds off.

The video is grainy, but one theory is that the truck with the flashing lights may have been involved somehow in the shooting. Is the man who is seen running out from behind the truck actually the shooter? Did he jump out of the truck, kill Nemtsov, and escape in a getaway car? Is the getaway car white, like the one that authorities are looking for? This video leaves many unanswered questions, especially because it is very different than a video posted last night be LifeNews, a news agency with very close ties to the Kremlin security apparatus.

 LifeNews has also published a video, made up of several security camera angles, which reportedly show Nemtsov just moments before he was killed. 

James Miller
Reports from LifeNews of Cars Found, Suspects Videotaped in Nemtsov Murder but Investigative Committee Rejects Them

In the last few hours, Russian police have been reported to find white cars said to be related to the perpetrators of the murder of Boris Nemtsov, and LifeNews has even released a video tape which it claims are the killers.

But Vladimir Markin of the Investigative Committee has refuted the claims and cautioned that media should be careful in trusting such reports.

LifeNews is a TV station specializing in crime and war coverage, close to intelligence and law-enforcement. But perhaps there are times when it is out of sync with the Investigative Committee (IC) — or the IC does not want premature speculation.

Translation: automobile of of the killers via LifeNews. It was found in the courtryards off Smolenskaya Boulevard.

Предполагаемых убийц Бориса Немцова сняли камеры наблюдения

Двое мужчин вышли из автомобиля, на котором злоумышленники, предположительно, скрылись с места происшествия.

View full page >

Feb 28, 2015 19:25 (GMT)

Translation: two men get out of a car in which the perpetrators presumably fled from the scene of the crime.

Translation: A source at Interfax: a number of signs provide a basis for supposing that the murder of Nemtsov was committed not by professionals but by ultra-right radicals.

Translation: Markin essentially refuted the reports about the found auto. “I could ask you to be more accurate and balanced regarding such a source.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Putin Sends Telegram of Condolences to Nemtsov’s Mother

The Kremlin has posted the following copy of a telegram sent by President Vladimir Putin to  Dina Yakovlena Eydman, mother of Boris Nemtsov. The Interpreter has translated the text:

Please accept my deepest condolences in connection with your inconsolable loss. I sincerely share with you the woe which has befallen you.

Boris Nemtsov left his mark on the history of Russia, in politics and civic life. He had occasion to work in significant posts in the difficult transitional period of our country. He always directly and honestly articulated his position and defended his point of view.

Everything will be done so that the organizers and executors of this base and cynical muder will receive their deserved punishment.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Chechen Leader Accuses Western Intelligence of Murdering Nemtsov

Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic issued a statement half an hour ago on Instagram. The Interpreter has a translation:

“In the center of Moscow Boris Nemtsov was killed. Only forces interested in whipping up tension could embark on such a cunning step. The organizers of the murder hoped that the whole world will accuse the leadership of Russia of the death of Nemtsov and provoke a wave of protest. There are no doubts that the murder of Nemtsov was organized by Western intelligence.”

— Catherine. A. Fitzpatrick

Opposition Gets Permit for Funeral March in Center of Moscow in Memory of Boris Nemtsov

Opposition organizer Leonid Volkov announced on his Facebook page he is converting the Spring march to protest the war in Ukraine into a funeral march for Boris Nemtsov, with people to gather at 14:00 tomorrow, March 1. He said the march would begin at 15:00 at the Kitay-Gorod metro in the center of Moscow. The route will pass Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, where Nemtsov was shot dead last night.

He showed a new letter of application that has been submitted to authorities and signed by former prime minister Mikhal Kasyanov, now in opposition.

Kasyanov separately reported that he had received permission for the march.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Climate of Hatred for Opposition Created by Russian Officials and State TV Enabled Killing of Nemtsov
Regardless of who the perpetrator was who killed opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, many opposition members as well as the broader circle of intelligentsia and Western observers blame a climate of incitement of hatred against Nemtsov and other opposition in the state media.

Translation: Regardless of who actually pulled the trigger, the collective Dmitry Kiselyev in the person of all his fellow travelers is an accomplice.

His reference is to the notorious TV propagandist who is head of Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian state media holding company.

Just last weekend on February 21, the Anti-Maidan movement formed by pro-government figures, some with organizations that get government funding, staged a protest march in Moscow.

Among the printed signs in the march we could see one with the face of Boris Nemtsov and the label “Organizer of Maidan.”


Photo by Yevgeny Feldman. For  more coverage of the March see photos by Novaya Gazeta.

Last year, billboards were placed around Moscow with the sign “Demons” portraying opposition leaders as naked devils.


And in the Crimea during the Russian invasion last year, there were bulletin boards warning people of the dangers of “agents of influence”; Nemtsov was in the top row.


Since 2012, after a brief period when opposition figures were allowed on state TV to take part in debates during the presidential campaign, there have bee a number of special TV broadcasts vilifying the opposition on NTV and other channels.


This video by NTV titled “Who feeds the opposition” Anatomy of Protest.”

This video, part of a series in 2012, has footage of Nemtsov at a demonstration and also has a speaker who reiterates the theme we are hearing now, that the opposition “needs a ritual sacrifice”.

On YouTube, there are numerous videos,
accusing Nemtsov of plotting conspiracies against Russia, disparaging
his Jewish background, claiming he was in the pay of the CIA, etc.

The Russian print media has constantly discussed Nemtsov as a “fifth columnist” serving the interests of Western governments.

Grigory Yavlinsky, founder of the opposition Yabloko Party, blamed Putin for creating the hostility:

The murder of Boris Nemtsov is a war that has come home to us —
visibly and crudely. He was its opponent and tried to stop the killing
of Ukrainians and Russians who had become victims of this cynical
militaristic propaganda. For that they hated him, like all opponents of
the war who dared to call things by their names — annexation,
aggression, fratricide.

The political responsibility for this
murder is borne by the government as a whole and personally by President
Putin – those who began this war and continue to wage it and conduct a
propagandistic campaign of hatred in its support. Moral and human
responsibility is on everyone who takes part in that campaign.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Opposition March Organizer Still Trying to Get Permit for Nemtsov Memorial Procession

As people continue to bring flowers to the place where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered last night, Leonid Volkov, campaign manager for Alexey Navalny and organizer of the Vesna march, is still trying to get a permit from authorities to conduct a memorial march today in place of the March 1 parade originally planned.

Translation: Totally frigging annoying, they are now citing “the law.” But last night Gorbenko said that he understood everything and of course agrees to move it to the center.

Translation: I want to be at the site of the tragedy but instead I’m sitting here in the waiting room of Gorbenko’s office.

Translation: Friends, please, have a little more patience. There can’t be any “good” decisions in such a situation, some one will be unhappy with any of them.

Translation: the Mayor’s office has turned on the reverse engines — but last night Gorbenko said that he approves of the move of the march to the center.

Translation: And Putin has turned on the reverse engines.

His reference is to an interview with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, which we translated here, in which Peskov said in fact Putin would not take personal control of the investigation into the murder as had been reported earlier, but would leave it to law-enforcers.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Investigators Say ‘Islamist Extremism’ or ‘Internal Ukrainian Events’ Could Be Related to Nemtsov’s Murder
Law-enforcement sources have already given several theories for the motives of the killers of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, as we reported earlier.

Meduza reports further from Vladimir Markin, spokesman from the Investigative Committee:

The figure of Nemtsov could become a kind of sacral sacrifice for those who do not disdain any methods to achieve their political goals

The second theory relates to an “Islamist extremist footprint.” According to the investigation, Nemtsov was threatened in connection with that fact that he condemned the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris.

A third theory has to do with “internal Ukrainian events.”

It is not a secret that among both conflicting sides there are very radical personages who do not subordinate to any authority.

Moreover, investigators say that Nemtsov could have been murdered for his business or personal enmity.

While a few Russian liberals spoke out in support of Charlie Hebdo, and Nemtsov was among them, he was not particularly vocal or preoccupied with this issue, and was focused  more in recent weeks on criticism of the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine and the poor handling of the economic crisis in Russia which in part resulted from it.

Markin seems to remove Russia from the “conflicting sides” in the war in Ukraine, although there is ample evidence of the presence of Russian tanks and troops.

As for those who “stop at nothing,” an important factor to remember about all the high-profile assassinations in Russia in the last 20 years is that none of them been fully solved. While in some cases, such as critical investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, some of those related to the perpetrator of the crime have been arrested and sentenced, the mastermind has not been found.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Statement from Opposition Leader Alexey Navalny on His Colleague Boris Nemtsov

The Interpreter has translated the following statement from Alexey Navalny from his jail cell in Moscow, published by his colleagues on his Facebook page.

I have just learned about the murder of Boris Nemtsov from the guys who came to visit me. To be honest, I am in such shock that it is hard to even choose words.

Boris came here to visit me a few days ago, and as usual was energetic, cheerful and full of plans. He charmed the policemen, chatting cheerfully with them, and explaining to them that it was in their interests to support the demands of the Spring march, he handed out brochures with his report. I can’t even imagine that I will never see him again.

This monstrous tragedy is a loss for all of us. Borya was a very good and decent person. He was a great, real politician and a decent person — it’s not so often that you encounter this. My most sincere condolences to his family, relatives and friends, and in general to everyone — we really have lost what we cannot replace.

I will not speak about the theories of the case given the obvious lack of information in my situation. I hope they will let me go to Boris’ wake.

Navalny was sentenced to 15 days for leafletting, and is expected to complete his sentence by March 6.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kremlin Denies ‘Political Nature’ of Nemtsov’s Assassination; Says Putin Not Taking Personal Control

that President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and Putin ordered the heads of the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service to create a joint investigative group, and for them to take control.

Putin said, “It’s a provocation, a contract murder,” regarding the murder. Kommersant probed further with Dmitry Peskov, presidential spokesman, and asked if the quote was correct. The Interpreter has a full translation of the interview:

Peskov: Yes, it is completely correct, in fact, this monstrous murder has all the signs of a contractor murder, and of course, very much appears to be a major provocation.

Kommersant: Could you explain from the beginning, a provocation in what sense, against whom? It was likely organized, yes, but contracted, that’s likely something the investigation must establish, whether it was contracted or not contracted?

Peskov: Organized or not organized, but it was contracted certainly. And it is a provocation in the sense that, undoubtedly, it is known that Boris Nemtsov was in opposition to the leadership of Russia, he was in opposition to the line which the leadership of Russia conducts, to that line which the overwhelming majority of Russians support, that is, he was an opposition member. And against the background of various, let us say, events, which the opposition is planning in the next days, against the background on the whole of a very emotional, charged setting, which we have in connection with the events in Ukraine.

Of course, this could indeed appear to be a provocation. In this case, it can likely be said that theories of the case must be awaited from the investigative group which has been formed on assignment from the president, which consists of the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry, and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Thus, it is clear that Boris Nemtsov was an opposition member, it is obvious that he was in close contact with various people in Kiev, he travelled there often, this is not a secret, everyone knows that.

Kommersant: Dmitry Sergeyevich [Peskov], could you please tell us how you assess it, many commentators and experts have noted in our broadcasts that the maximum reputational losses as a result of this high-profile murder will be borne by the Russian government in any event, if in the nearest future the killers are not found and punished. What is your comment on this?

Peskov: You know, I rather categorically do not agree with that. Truly, it can be fairly easily surmised that let us say bold political analysts will express the view that this will deal a blow to some reputation of Putin and so on and so forth. But in this case, with all due respect to the memory of Boris Nemtsov, in the political sense he did not constitute any threats, meaning, of course, political, for the current leadership of Russia and for Vladimir Putin. If we compare the level of popularity, the ratings of Putin, the government as a whole and so on, then on the whole, Boris Nemtsov was a bit more then the average statistical citizen. So therefore I’d be inclined to likely reject that perspective.

Kommersant: Well look, for comprehension’s sake, of course, that’s absolutely truth, but there’s another theory that say, in the West or in Europe people are not inclined to deeply analyze the situation in Russia and can perceive the situation as follows: so, there’s an opposition member, there’s the Kremlin, at which gates this very opposition member who opposed the Russian authorities was killed. Such an interpretation was impossible, and will it create any, I don’t know, problem?

Peskov: You know, unfortunately, a really deep analysis of the events in Russia and in the West, a breadth of perspective and mainly a soberness in understanding what is happening in Russia is not characteristic of Western observers recently. Therefore it is possible such perspectives will be expressed but more likely that will be their problems, not ours.

Kommersant: On the other hand, Russia cooperates with the West on a wide spectrum of issues?

Peskov: I think that in this case it is entirely unimportant what they think in the West, what is important is to await the results of the investigation, and I think it is important to join the condolences to the relatives and friends of Nemtsov, which was expressed by the president of Russia.

Kommersant: Dmitry Sergeyevich, when you speak about the investigation, you announced that the president will take full personal control over the investigation, what does that mean technically?

Peskov: I absolutely never announced that.

Kommersant: You did not make an announcement about the personal control, this information is not accurate?

Peskov: Yes, this information is absolutely inaccurate, the president assigned the heads of the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service to create the investigative group and take personal control of the course of the investigation.

Kommersant: Ah, so that was how it was formulated.

LifeNews Publishes Video of Getaway Car of Nemtsov’s Murder Suspects

LifeNews, a TV channel close to Russian intelligence and law-enforcement, has published exclusive footage of the flight of the car in which presumably the murderer of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was traveling. It is a light-colored sedan which was noticed near the site of Nemtsov’s murder and then a few minutes later on Bolsaya Ordynka Street.

The video shows that the suspects did not hurry so as not to draw attention to themselves, says LifeNews.


To see the movie, go to LifeNews page but keep in mind that it isn’t loading much of the time now due to heavy traffic.

LifeNews, often described as “tabloid TV” is also running a story in which it is claimed that Anna Duritskaya, the Ukrainian model with whom Nemtsov was walking when he was killed had a relationship with him for three years, of which her family disapproved.

Sources within the investigation say police are looking for either a white Ford Mondeo or a Kia Rio.

Police said that a plan called “Intercept” was launched to find the killers, during which three cars that were reportedly caught on tape by security cameras near the scene. However police says the owners of these white sedans are not involved in the crime; two of the three cars belonged to taxi firms and the fourth is a private person.

Now police have called off “Intercept,” although they continue to investigate the murder.

Today, medical examiners are to perform an autopsy on the body of Nemtsov and possibly more light may be shed on the murder. Of 6 bullets fired at Nemtsov’s back, four lodged in his body, in his head, heart, kidney and stomach.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

‘Without You, Spring Will Not Come’

Translation: People are bringing flowers to the site of the murder of Nemtsov, and grieving.

Photographer Philipp Kireev has more photos from the gathering on his LiveJournal page.

One particularly moving photo shows a bouquet with a leaflet promoting the now-cancelled  opposition march scheduled for March 1, which was called “Vesna” or “Spring” in Russian.

The leaflet says “Without You, Spring Will Not Come.”


Just 12 days ago, Nemtsov and Alexey Navalny went to the Moscow metro to distribute these very “Spring” leaflets in person and talk with people about the march.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Mayor’s Office Tells Opposition They Cannot Substitute Memorial Action Today for March 1 March
The Mayor’s Office denied permission for a memorial gathering for slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Translation by The Interpreter:

Aleksey Mayorov, head of the department for regional security in the Moscow Mayor’s Office has said that the opposition cannot replaced their planned March 1 march with a memorial action today.

Applications must be submitted a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 15 days before the event. The final approval of the end is completed by law within 3 days.

If there is something, it will not be in the format of those events that are provided for by laws no. 54 and F3.

Russian Law-Enforcers Report Several Possible Motives for Murder of Nemtsov

Ekho Moskvy, the radio station where Boris Nemtsov spent the hours before his death giving an interview, has a report on police findings so far this morning since the assassination of Nemtsov last night.

Yuliya Ivanova, representative of the Moscow Investigative Committee told journalists that all theories for the murder are being examined, including a contract killing.

A source at Interfax says law-enforcers noted that Nemtsov was killed on the eve of an opposition march which was supposed to have taken place March 1. The murder may have been a “provocation,” they say. This implies that it was meant to imply the government was behind it in order to discredit President Vladimir Putin.

Yet another source says that investigators are looking at Nemtsov’s political activity regarding his work as a deputy of the Yaroslavl Region Duma or local legislature.

There is also a theory that his murder is related to his business activity.

So far authorities have not said that the murder was related to a personal dispute.

Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer for Nemtsov’s family, says recently Nemtsov had received threats via social media. This is confirmed also by his fellow activists and aides.

Police say that unknown persons shot Nemtsov multiple times from a white automobile traveling on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, although the license plate was not obtained.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Opposition Gathers to Remember Leader Boris Nemtsov, Assassinated Near Kremlin

In shock over the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, two days before he was to lead a protest against the war in Ukraine and the anti-crisis program, the opposition is holding a memorial gathering for Nemtsov instead of the Vesna [Spring] March they had hoped for.

Translation: at the site of the murder of Nemtsov right now there are several dozen people, mainly journalists.
Translation: In the thick of flowers there is a green leaflet, “Without you, ‘Spring’ will not come.”

Translation: They have placed the Constitution of the Russian Federation by the flowers. Here’s how it is now.

Aleksey Navalny, the other opposition leader who was to lead the march tomorrow, March 1, was jailed last week for leafletting along with Boris Nemtsov in the metro. Cut off from the news, he has just learned about the tragedy:

Translation: I’m at the detention center. Kira Yarmysh and I
brought Alexey some bad news; Alexey hear Nemtsov’s broadcast on Ekho,
but did not know about the tragedy.

Translation: the event is in memory of Boris, in support of the demands about which he spoke in his last public speech.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick