Russia Update: More Than 30,000 March in Memory of Slain Opposition Leader Nemtsov

March 1, 2015
Man carries a Russian sign which is a play on the name "Boris" which also means "Fight!" in memory of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in a memorial procession March 1. The woman on the right has a sign saying "Propaganda Kills" reflecting widespread believe that state TV's vilification of the opposition led to the killing of Nemtsov. Photo by @YodNews

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.


Both government and opposition have advanced various theories about the people behind the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, ranging from a jealous lover to Islamist extermists to rival opposition leaders seeking to create martyrs to the Kremlin itself. We list them below and also analyze how strong the arguments are pro and con.

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.

Surprise – the US Government, a Non-Violent Resistance Group, a Ukrainian Ultranationalist, and a Chechen Were Plotting to Kill Nemtsov

As if on cue, articles have appeared on a Russian news site tying together the US government, the most notorious Ukrainian ultranationalist, an anti-Milosevich Serbian group and a Chechen — in a plot to kill Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Why any of these entities critical of the Kremlin would supposedly be motivated to kill Nemtsov, also a major critic remains a mystery.

The articles (here and here) published on a fairly obscure site called (which means “There is No Justice”) claim to shed light on a shooting in Moscow  February 28 that is supposedly related to the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

The story has not appeared in any other Russian-language media in Russia or Ukraine. We have no confirmation of its authenticity.

In the strange world that is the Russian media space, the fact that the story hasn’t appeared on the notorious LifeNews or TV1 channels, known for their disinformation, has curiously given it credibility for some on social media.

With the headline “Main Thread to the Contractors of Nemtsov Murder Broken,” the site reports that on February 28 in Klyonovskoye Troitstkogo, a suburb of Moscow, detectives found the body of Aslan Alkhanov with an apparent self-inflicted gun-shot wound and declared it a suicide:

Alkhanov was the main suspect in the organization of the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Investigators said they had no reason to suspect murder.

Now, despite the fact that the crime was solved almost hot on the trail and its direct contractors were known, the judicial prospects for the case will be doubtful.

If we leave aside the question of contractors who, as a rule in these cases, are not found, then regarding the punishment of the murderers who remain alive, at any rate, the president of Ukraine could punish the middlemen in the contract of the murder. If he wants. Although even in this case he will hardly be able to.

This is a question of the closest comrade-at-arms of the deputy head of the Committee for Issues of National Security and Defense of Ukraine, and such a figure is over the head of Petro Alekseyevich [Poroshenko]. It remains just to write on Twitter. And not believe.

Yarosh is the deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Issues of National Security and Defense.

The implication is that Poroshenko, though he is president of Ukraine, will somehow be unable to deal with the head of Right Sector — whose party did not get into parliament because its candidates did not meet the 5% threshold in the elections. Yarosh was elected in a single-mandate district.

This article follows a previous one published February 28, “Victims of Naivete,” responding to the February 10 Sobesednik article headlined “Boris Nemtsov: I’m Afraid That Putin Will Kill Me” – which in fact involves the editors putting words in Nemtsov’s mouth as he didn’t say this, but only said his mother had this fear.

The earlier article claims that Alkhanov met with Dmitro Yarosh and contends that Yarosh, like Aleksander Kazun, said to be the organizer of the bombing of the Maidan rally in Kharkov, was a member of CANVAS, an NGO funded by the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy by members of Otpor, the group associated with “the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevich”. Yarosh was said to work in CANVAS before joining Right Sector, says — echoing the conspiracy theory of pro-Kremlin site

There was no confirmation of Yarosh’s involvement in CANVAS.

Alkhanov then traveled to Moscow mid-week, and several days later, Nemtsov was killed, and his Ukrainian companion “by strange coincidence” was not harmed.

“On February 10, Boris Nemtsov signed his death warrant, and his murder was only a question of a short time,” says, referring to the date of his Sobosednik interview. Sources told that Alkhanov’s meeting was recorded by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and his arrival in Moscow was recorded by the FSB.

Pravosudija complained that Alkhanov was not being searched for by police, the “American footprint is being ignored”:

The victim of such a murder could claim the Darwin prize, but Nemtsov’s behavior is at least explainable; he could not help but know that his miscalculation would be cynically exploited by his American friends. Are our intelligence services so naive?

We couldn’t find any further information about Alkhanov or confirm that a man by such a name died. There are numerous social media accounts under this name, nearly all of them started and not filled.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Nemtsov’s Murder Assigned to Special Investigator Known for Solving Ultranationalist Crimes

According to a report by, the group investigating the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on February 27 is headed by Maj. Gen. Igor Krasnov, a senior special cases investigator known for his past work on the cases of ultranationalists, including in the group BORN [Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists] some of whose members have been convicted of murdering a number of people associated with opposing hate crimes including anti-fascist activists and a judge.

That suggests that the Kremlin is moving in the direction of fingering extremists in the ultranationalist movements, which at first were encouraged by Russia’s forcible annexation of the Crimea, then reined in by Putin in some cases when intellectuals began to complain about their incitement of violence against Ukrainians.

Vadim Prokhorov, lawyer for Anna Duritskaya, Nemtsov’s companion with
him when he was killed, confirmed that Krasnov was assigned the case.

Krasnov has under him 12 investigators who are checking surveillance cameras, mobile telephone bills, routes of movement and Nemtsov’s contacts in the last month, says

Krasnov led the investigation of Ivan Mironov, the nationalist accused of planning an attack on Anatoly Chubais, head of Unified Energy System (RAO UES) in 2006, who was later acquitted in 2010. Vladimir Kvachkov, a retired GRU colonel, was also charged in that attempt. Both were found not guilty by a jury; Kvachkov was later convicted in another case.

He also led the case of the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova, who were murdered in 2009 by BORN activists, and successfully prosecuted Nikitia Tikhonov and Yevgeniya Khasis for the murder. Even after their arrest, other BORN members committed the murder of federal judge Eduward Chuvashov, for which other defendants are now awaiting a verdict. One BORN member died in 2011 from a grenade explosion after fleeing to Ukraine. Another, Aleksandr Parinov, is also hiding in Ukraine and is on the police wanted list.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

What Did the Video Cameras Closer to the Scene of Nemtsov’s Murder See?

A video recording of the scene of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov has been studied closely for clues to his death, and has led some to conclude that the presence of a city street-cleaning machine stopping on the bridge before he was shot could indicate some kind of government involvement in his death.

The vehicle appears to block the camera’s view, and also someone seems to jump off the back of it who may have been the perpetrator (see Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov).

But this camera, set far back from the scene, is not the only camera trained on this site, which falls within the special zone of protection of the FSO (Federal Protective Service), something like the US Secret Service, which protests the president, his residence, and office, which includes the whole Kremlin area.

This area has always been under heightened security; Nemtsov himself wrote of this zone on his Facebook page not long before his death when he was defending a solo picketer who was arrested within this area.

Now a Russian blogger has posted a picture showing the security cameras on poles in the area that open up the question of what other security tapes might exist.

Translation: everybody probably already saw this photo. You can make out faces from these cameras. And they’re showing us [footage] from a camera from outer space.

Label on picture: Five cameras on the post; two.

His reference is to the distance of the cameras that recorded the scene.

As he points out, there are five cameras on the lamp post right near the scene of the crime, and two on the post across the street.

The circumstances are not known under which the first video footage wsa leaked from further back from the bridge, and interestingly, it is not LifeNews, the “tabloid TV” close to intelligence which usually gets a hold of such sensational material.

Instead, the video was uploaded to YouTube by TV Tsentr, which is the city of Moscow’s TV station.

No doubt police have retrieved the film from the cameras right on the bridge. There have also been calls from the opposition to anyone who was driving in the area that night to examine their dashcam footage; many Russians install dashboard cameras in their cars because of the prevalence of traffic accidents, to use in lawsuits.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Woman Who Witnessed Nemtsov Murder Reportedly Not Being Allowed To Return to Ukraine
Kyiv Post is reporting that the woman who was with Boris Nemtsov when he was assassinated, Ukrainian model Anna Duritska, is not being allowed to return to Ukraine:

Kyiv Post reports

Moscow lawyer Vadim Prokhorov who had worked for Nemtsov, said he was asked by the Nemtsov family to represent Duritska. According to him, the woman has addressed the Ukrainian consul in Moscow, asking to help her return to Kyiv.

According to Prokhorov, Duritska stays in an apartment of an ally of Nemtsov. She is not officially detained, but is not allowed to leave.

“She voluntarily participates in all the procedures of the investigation,” Prokhorov told RIA Novosti on March 1.

At the same time, he emphasized that authorities violate the rights of Duritska when they force her to stay in Russia with no legal basis.

According to Interfax Ukraine news agency, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a diplomatic note to the corresponding Russian ministry, asking to help Duritska get back to Ukraine. The Ukraine’s ministry spokesman said that Duritska wasn’t under arrest, but is guarded.

James Miller

Ukrainian MP Arrested In Moscow Could Face Charges Related to Deaths of Pro-Russians In Odessa

Interfax provides more details (translated by The Interpreter) on the arrest of Ukrainin MP Alexander Goncharenko, who attended today’s memorial rally for assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov:

Alexander Goncharenko, a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada or Ukrainian parliament from the Petro Poroshenko bloc was detained today at the funeral march for Boris Nemtsov, Interfax reported.

The Moscow Interior Ministry confirmed to Interfax that he was detained.

“He will be transferred to reprsentatives of the Russian Investigative Committee for further processing,” said an official.

A source familiar with the situation says that Goncharenko may become a suspect in a criminal case opened by Russia into the events in Odessa on May 2, 2014.

Goncharekno confirmed the information in a post to his blog at the Ukrainska Pravda web site.

I was detained by police. I was taken to a van and my passport wsa taken. Then they returned my passport and took me out of the ban and struck me. Now they are holding me near the van and not letting me go. I did not chant anything, I did not carry any posters or flags, I was detained simply for my t-shirt.

A photo he posted from the march shows him dressed in jeans, jacket and a white t-shirt on which is printed the slogan “Heroes Don’t Die” in the Ukrainian language.

Earlier Goncharenko had written on his Facebook that he had traveled to Moscow for the march in memory of Nemtsov.

According to media reports, after the Odessa tragedy, Goncharenko, who was a local deputy at the time, posted photographs of himself with burning bodies from the Trade Union building in the background. And in a program on Shuster Live, on Ukrainian television, he said he approved of the “clean-up” of the tent camp of the “anti-Maidan” activists at Kulikovo Pole Square, Interfax reported.

This picture shows Gonchatenko at today’s rally wearing a shirt with Boris Nemtsov’s face on it that reads “Heroes Don’t Die”:


And this was taken after his arrest:

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller
More Than a Dozen Detained at Memorial March for Boris Nemtsov, the police monitoring group, reports more than a dozen detentions at today’s march in memory of Boris Nemtsov.

In the early afternoon when the parade assembled, two people were detained whose first names only were available, Ruslan and Fyodor. Police said they had committed some violations were were filmed on video. One of the detainees said he was somewhat ill and wrapped a scarf around his face. The pair were being held in a police van near the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.

Aleksiy Goncharenko, deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine was detained. He wrote on his Faceboo page that he was put in a police van and his passport was taken. Although his passport was then returned, he wsa then beaten. He continues to be held at the police fan, and complains that he wasn’t chanting or carrying a sign but he was detained for what his t-shirt said.  112 Ukraina reported that he was in Kitay-Gorod Police Precinct.

But there was concern that the charges could be more serious, related to the Trade Union Building fire in Odessa May 2, 2014 in which 40 people lost their lives after clashes between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian nationalists.

About 10 persons were arrested with Russian imperial flags, OGON (the United Group for Civil Observation) reported.

earlier report indicated that police may have detained one of these
people on charges that he threw a smoke bomb, but parade organizers said
they had no complaints about this group of people.

Translation: Marchers with imperial flags were put in a police van near the metal detectors. About 10 people. License plate of the ban: s2045 99. They were detained without explanation of the prisons.
Police Estimate 16,500; Mob Counter 23,000; March Still Continues in Memory of Boris Nemtsov

The turnout for the march in memory of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is quite impressive. Ilya Varlamov, a prominent Russian blogger and photographer, shows a panoramic view:

Translation: I heard in the column that the police figures are 16,000.
Translation: The end of the column is still on the embankment.
Today’s Memorial March In Moscow May Be Largest Rally Since 2012
Today’s crowd, gathered to mourn assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov,  is certainly larger than protests in recent history. 

We are not sure that 50,000-100,000 protesters have shown up for the rally, but it’s certainly larger than many protest which have occurred recently. Of course, those protests have often come under attack by Moscow’s riot police. There were indications at the outset that authorities would not similarly crack down on today’s rally. 

James Miller

Marchers Reach Bridge Where Nemtsov Was Killed to Find Police Cordoned Off Area; Helicopters,
Translation: Thousands of people are still going toward the embankment. LIVE.
The march in memory of Boris Nemtsov,
opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister began forming ranks about two hours ago.

Now the column has reached Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, but police have cordoned off the exact place where Nemtsov was killed, where flowers have been heaped by morners. Nearby snipers are visible on the walls of the Kremlin, and a helicopter buzzers overhead.

This photo indicates 8,000-10,000 at least.

Translation: ambassadors from Great Britain, France and Germany

Translation: Picture of the day…City of Perm. Funeral rally in memory of Boris Nemtsov.
Translation: A helicopter is hovering over the march.

Translation: Near Field of Mars [In St. Petersburg]

Translation: Free Savchenko! One of the demands of the march in Moscow today
Translation: A helicopter is hovering over the march.

Translation: Near Field of Mars [In St. Petersburg]

Translation: in Syktyvkar, 40 people came to the action.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Police Estimate 7,000 at March in Memory of Nemtsov; Organizers 30,000

As always, there is a lot of debate about just how many people are attending the march in memory of Boris Nemtsov, assassinated opposition leader.

This photo indicates it is more like 30,000 than 7,000:

Translation: Picture of the day…City of Perm. Funeral rally in memory of Boris Nemtsov.
Translation: A helicopter is hovering over the march.

Translation: Near Field of Mars [In St. Petersburg]

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Boris Nemtsov: A Life in Pictures
Several Thousand March in Memory of Boris Nemtsov, Opposition Leader

Here’s a live feed from the opposition march today in memory of slain oposition leader Boris Nemtsov:

Currently reporters are estimated about 10,000 people have assembled by the Kitai-Gorod gate near the Kremlin to participate in a march across the town to the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge


Here people are gathering with Russian flags by the Kitai-Gorod  [China Town] passage.

In this screen grab we can see that people are carrying posters where they have made a pun of the name “Boris” which also means “Fight!”



Translation of sign: “Boris, we will not forgive, we will not forget.”


Translation: The formation of the column is finishing. It’s impossible to tell how many people from here.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

March in Memory of Assassinated Opposition Leader Nemtsov Sets Off; Waits at Metal Detectors, Lots of Police
Translation: start of column. signs on the banner: “Heroes don’t die” and “Those bullets went in each of us.”
Translation: you have to wait at the metal detectors about 20 minutes.
Translation of sign: Former informer, current executioner.
Translation: I don’t see any Ukrainian flags inside the metal detectors. Only RF, Parnas, and Solidarity, in which Nemtsov was a member.
Translation: Funeral march now in St. Petersburg in memory or Boris Nemtsov.
Russian Opposition to March in Moscow in Memory of Slain Leader Boris Nemtsov Today

Today was supposed to have been a march titled “Spring” to oppose the war in Ukraine and the government’s anti-crisis measures. The slogan on the leaflets was “Without you, Spring can’t come.”

Instead, with the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, former first deputy prime minister, who was supposed to have led the march along with Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime minister, the slogan turned into a terrible eulogy.

After consultation with opposition leaders, Leonid Volkov, organizer of the Spring march, decided to apply to the Mayor’s officer for a new permit to march in the center of town to the place where Nemtsov was killed, on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, through the center of town. The route is as follows:

Given the different time zones across Russia, some demonstrators
have already gotten started with their marches in memory of opposition
leader Boris Nemtsov.

Translation: Funeral rally in Yekaterinburg.

Translation: More than 1,500 people in Yekaterinburg. The microphone didn’t work, but no one thought of dispersing.
Analysis of Various Theories About the Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
We outlined below a number of possible theories of the motivations and possible perpetrators of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

The following is some analysis of the theories:

1. Business partners, jealous lovers, or other private persons
– In most cases involving money and love triangles, the victim is
killed inside or right outside their home.  The murderer is not going to
want to risk being seen in a wide-open public space, or caught on
surveillance cameras. The fact that Nemtsov was killed in a wide-open
space with lots of possible witnesses, and surveillance cameras in a
highly-secure area near the Kremlin, tends to suggest that personal
reasons are not involved.

2. Ukrainian government or State Department paymasters.
Those positing the involvement of the Ukrainian or any Western
government in the assassination who are unhappy with their charge’s
supposed work for them
have to explain why these putative pay-masters looking to “punish for
poor performance” or conversely “split society” didn’t wait until March
1, and a presumably failed march with fairly low turnout (or a wildly
successful march), to then settle their scores — and thus miss an
opportunity for a high-profile event first to attract support of their
Given that in Russia, murders and arrests tend to intimidate dissidents
rather than
fuel them to more protest, this seems counterintuitive to their
hypothetical interests.

There’s also the obvious problem that if these paymasters want to
recruit new helpers, making obvious examples of poor performers by
executing them may tend to drive down recruitment.

3. Western intelligence seeking destabilization of Russia.
The argument that any assassination “destabilizes society” seems readily
credible until we contemplate that in Russia, killing an opposition
leader without much
of a following in the broader society does not achieve the desired

There have been dozens of assassinations in the last 25 years of
journalists, priests, civic activists, lawyers, parliamentarians,
artists, and business people. None of these affected the rule of
Vladimir Putin whatsoever; other factors were involved in the demise of
Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Russia is already severely
destabilized by Putin’s own actions in Ukraine, the fall of the ruble’s
value and the price of oil. The effect of a chill on speech and assembly
would arguably provide more stability (albeit of the potentially
volatile kind
due to state oppression), rather than destabilization.

This could be projection by Kremlin-controlled media, as one key
way in which Russian-backed separatists and suspects who were trained in
Russia, according to Ukrainian police, have destabilized cities like
Lugansk and Kharkiv is to commit high-profile assassinations or bombings
(see the cases of the Russian ultrarightist activist Aleksandr Prosyolkov who came to
Lugansk from Moscow; Aleksandr “Batman” Bednov in Lugansk; and at least 10 bombings of Kharkiv in which
Maidan activists and other civilians have been killed.)

4. Russian opposition itself making of Nemtsov a
“sacrificial victim”. 
This is a version of the “false flag” technique in
subversive activity, and is also likely a projection based on the Kremlin’s own methods. The single greatest
disinformation story that the Kremlin has put out regarding Maidan is
that the snipers who killed 100 people were from Right Sector or other
ultrarightist forces who killed their own fellow demonstrators as well
as police to provoke a violent coup. While some of the demonstrators may
have shot police, the evidence also indicates that most demonstrators
were armed and shot by riot police.

Furthermore, there is indication that not only did the Kremlin have
a scenario for takeover of the Crimea and the Donbass before Yanukovych
fled, Yanukovych had plenty of reasons to flee without actually facing
gunmen in his own office or residence — which never occurred.

Blogger Oleg Kashin has an interesting post about the “sacrificial lamb” theory,
noting that he himself heard
this theory espoused during his own police interrogations regarding the 2010 attack on him which left
him severely injured, after which he was eventually forced to flee
Russia to live abroad.

An investigator asked him if he didn’t
think the attack on him was meant to “destabilize Russia” or was an
effort by opposition to make him into a “sacrificial victim.” He didn’t
think that about his own case, and doesn’t think it about Nemtsov’s case
now, either. He took it at face value for what it was:
government-related intimidation to punish him for blogging critically
about an environmental issue.

Ilya Ponomarev argued backward from the actual “audience” that would be most
affected by the assassination to discard the “destabilization of society” theory:

“The audience for that crime was not the Russian people; the
target audience is within the Russian elites, who knew Nemtsov very
well, and even those who were Putin supporters had great respect and
they knew him as first vice prime minister; and elites in the West – an
even greater target than elites in Russia.”

Not ordinary Russians or “all of
Russia” were affected, because if Nemtsov had any recognition value, it was only as a
figured hated for his association with the Yeltsin regime. Rather, it
would be the liberal intelligentsia in Russia and its supporters in the
West who knew Nemtsov and his value who would be most affected.

As Ponomarev pointed out, unlike other figures who were less
transparent, everything about Nemtsov was known,  including his love
affairs and business dealings and he was never shy about expressing his
opinion on a wide range of issues. That made it difficult for officials
to control him.

5.  Ultranationalist or
nationalist-Bolshevik or other type of groups to the right or left of the
Kremlin operating on their own.
The assassination of the most visible
enemy designated by Anti-Maidan as “the organizer of Maidan” is not
merely intended to “discredit Putin” — who is already quite
discredited. Rather, it signals to Putin that extremists will hedge him
in by “taking care of” enemies they believe may influence him, to one
extent or another in the “fifth column.”

Regardless of the forces or interests at play in the murder of
Nemtsov, it’s likely that suspects in the murder will be delivered
quickly — already there is talk of “license plates from Ingushetia,” a
Caucasian republic next to Chechnya, which indicates that a Chechen, the standard
culprit for crimes in Russia may turn out once again to be involved.

For one, a key feature of the annual report of Aleksandr Bastrykin delivered last Friday, February 27 (the
same day as Nemtsov’s murder) is that 86% of murders are solved, and
that the percentage of such cases has increased since last year. After
boasting about this facet of his Investigative Committee — which he
believes makes the reason self-evident for separating the investigative
functions from the prosecutor’s office — he will be under pressure to
make good on his claim, not to mention under considerable political and
media pressure with such a high-profile case.

For another, the
faster the government can find a credible scapegoat, even if the
investigation and trial process drags out for years, the more any
undesirable fallout can be controlled.

Ilya Ponomarev predicted that in the next few weeks, the culprit will likely be found:

“Their face will be on Russian TV, their biographies and the evidence
— ‘the evidence’ — would be on RT, very nicely presented,conveyed in
perfect English by people like Ms. Boykov…conveyed in perfect English,
and with all the proof that is needed to convince a Western audience.
My personal bet is that it will be somebody next to Khodorkovsky whom
Kremlin really fears.”

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern
Russia which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Mikhail

6. The Kremlin. When political killings have occurred in the United States, Latin America, Asia or Africa, media have no trouble questioning whether the government in power could be involved somehow. Yet when it comes to Russia, such probing is instantly relegated to the category of “conspiracy theory” and discredited as tin-foil hattery.

Even so, the simplest explanation for the murder of an opposition
leader against the dramatic backdrop of the Kremlin walls and towers and
St. Basil’s Cathedral,  on the eve of a public anti-war march, is that
forces in power or close to the government were most motivated and most
capable of the deed.

There are a number of factors that support government involvement in some form:

a. Nemtsov was under constant surveillance. This was proven
multiple times as his cell phone calls were publicized in the press and
his meetings with people were broadcast on TV. His killers would know
where he was meeting his girlfriend and where he might stroll after
dinner on his way home. Presumably if an attempt was made on Nemtsov
while he was under surveillance, agents could prevent it or quickly nab
the culprits.

b. The involvement of a city vehicle in blocking the view of the
murder and making escape possible indicates possible official collusion.

A fear that the march might get more than the barely 30,000 that the
government mustered for the Anti-Maidan cause, even paying
demonstrators, bussing in protesters, and urging unions and local
government to turn out people dependent on the state for their salaries.
Had 30,000 appeared for “Spring” — and it’s not clear at all that they
would, although a rally last March produced that many — the Kremlin
might have felt it had a significant challenge. It’s not a challenge it
would have been overwhelmed with, however, as experience shows that with
just a few dozens arrests and long sentences of 4-5 years such as in
Bolotnaya Square cases, the government could deter participation
in large rallies. Even so, it could represent a fresh round of

d. Recent leak of a document purporting to come from the Kremlin indicating plans to annex the Crimea and the Donbass long
before Yanukovych was toppled. So much effort has been spent on finding
reasons to discount or downplay this document that it may be overlooked
that it simply could be true. In that case, a leak from a top official
would need to be punished and further leakers or would-be publishers
discouraged. Perhaps the Kremlin does not (yet) know who the leaker is
and needs to smoke him out.

Many believed Novaya Gazeta‘s Dmitry Muratov was in great
danger when he announced the leak days before publication, yet to attack
or jail him might not get as much publicity as the assassination of an
opposition leader about to lead a large public march. Nemtsov was also
planning to release a report himself.

e.  A demonstrable need in advance of various threatened or anticipated crackdowns to have a powerful
in place to prevent protest. These range from from blocking of
independent media websites, Western social media like Twitter and
Facebook, due to untenable demands on these companies to place their
servers on Russian territory, to further taxation and austerity
measures, and a law that will define “undesirable” organizations with
foreign ties in addition to the “foreign agents” law.

Whatever person or group committed the murder of Nemtsov, one thing
seems certain about their planning: they hoped that the indelible image
broadcast by media all over the world of a Kremlin critic lying dead
just outside the Kremlin’s walls — which he had never assailed in his
lifetime — would serve as a powerful image to strike fear into the
hearts of any other challengers.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov Range from Far-Fetched to Plausible

As can be expected, there is a wide range of theories now being
published and discussed about the possible forces behind the
assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down
February 27, two days before he was to lead a protest march against the
Russian government’s war on Ukraine and its anti-crisis measures.

These range from official hypotheses made by law-enforcement
officials in state media, to semi-official theories publicized in state
or pro-government media from anonymous sources, to theories made by
unofficial pro-government and anti-government voices in social media.

Here’s a list of some we have found which we will update:


– Islamists angry at Nemtsov’s support for the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists; this theory was indicated by Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee)

– Other opposition leaders within Russia or dark outside forces
interested in “destabilizing Russia” and willing to make a “sacrificial
victim” (Vladimir Markin);
these include “right-wing Ukrainian field commanders like Dmitro Yarosh
and Dmitro Korchinsky, ex-leader of UNA-UNSO,” who recently spoke of
“the need to commit terrorist attacks in Russia (TV Zvezda)

– Exposure of corruption in purchase of medical equipment in Yaroslavl (Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman).


– Other opposition leaders who have scores to settle.

– Ukrainian paymasters disappointed that Nemtsov didn’t sufficiently destabilize Russian society; LifeNews claimed an investigator told them this hypothesis:

“Boris Nemtsov traveled to Ukraine a number of times and actively
contacted the representatives of the so-called party of war, whose
purpose was to overthrow the government in Russia. They could have sent
cash to him to destabilize the situation in Russia. For this cash,
Nemtsov’s Ukrainian partners may have quite likely expected from him
work in splitting Russian society. But not only did the split not
happen, on the contrary, a consolidation of Russian society occurred.
Understanding that they would not obtain any result, Nemtsov’s sponsors
could have removed the politician, unable to realize their plans, said a
source in the investigative group.”

– Third party in love triangle jealous of his relationship with
model; LifeNews claimed a high-ranking law-enforcement official told
them this theory

“The girl with whom Boris Nemtsov was with at the moment of his murder is
a citizen of Ukraine. As we have already determined, she recently flew
from Moscow to Switzerland to have an abortion from the politician. We
can’t rule out that an ordinary conflict over her could have taken place.”

– Political activity related to position as deputy in Yaroslavl legislature (Interfax source)

– Business activity (Interfax source)

Unofficial – Pro-government

– The CIA; says “There are folks in Langley tonight who get a promotion.”

Ramzan Kadryov says, “Western intelligence striving by any means to provoke internal conflict” was responsible

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in order to discredit Putin

Other opposition figures, to create a martyr and undermine the government

Unofficial – Anti-government

– “Novorossiya” fighters or supporters

– Anti-Maidan movement (bikers, Afghan vets, Cossacks)

– Anyone motivated by “climate of hatred” incited by Anti-Maidan marchers, Dmitry Kiselyev, state TV, billboards, print media against “fifth columnists”

– Putin government through FSB or through cut-outs; opposition Duma deputy said in a speech this weekend at Tufts University Ilya Ponomarev says, “I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s this regime, this system that is to blame.”

Significance of Date

– Russians are very familiar with history, and many memorized in school the story of the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933, which enabled the Nazis to come to power by claiming the Communists were plotting against them and burned down the parliament. Hitler was able to get the Reichstaf Fire Decree suspending civil liberties in Germany as a result of the fire To this day historicans debate whether a Communist was indeed to blame or whether the Nazis themselve set the fire, but it is invoked as a classic example of a false-flag operation that could then be used to justify a crackdown.

– The date is the anniversary of the forcible take-over of the parliament in Crimea, and the takeover of airports and airfields the following day, which led to the forcible annexation of the Crimea;

– Many have noted that this is also Special Forces Day, which was just established this year, to celebrate the Special Operations Forces founded in March 2013 and empowered to fight in Russia’s interests abroad; these are the “polite people” or “little green men”. Putin himself served in foreign intelligence in the KGB, not the special forces, and as he signed the decree on the very day of Nemtsov’s murder, it’s not likely the murderers chose this date in advance. On the other hand, the preparation of the decree for his signature would have been known in advance inside the government, the combination of all the dates may indicate deliberate symmetry.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick