Lies, greed, political intrigue, corruption at the highest levels of government, conspiracies of silence and ultimately murder. In terms of a good story the murder of Boris Nemtsov has more in common with a bestselling thriller novel, than it does with real life, but unlike the plot of some blockbuster Hollywood movie, this scenario is being played out today in Moscow.
Boris Nemtsov, father of four, environmentalist, nuclear scientist and most notably, outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin was shot in the back four times by an as yet unknown assailant just yards from the heart of the Russian seat of government, the Kremlin.
At the time of his murder, he had been arranging a massed rally of opposition supporters in Moscow, protesting against the alleged Russian military support and involvement in the Ukrainian civil war. He had been attempting to unite the factions of the opposition movement and it was claimed that he had proof of Russian involvement in Ukraine.
In an article, published in Russia on the tenth of February 2015, Mr Nemtsov stated that “I am afraid that Putin will kill me”. To the untrained observer, this shocking turn of events would seem to implicate Mr Putin directly in Mr Nemtsov’s death.
However the real truth of the matter has yet to be brought to light.
This murder is just the latest in a long line of politically motivated murders stretching back to the murder of Sergey Yushenkov at his Moscow home in April 2003 and seemingly continuing with Mr Nemtsov’s murder at the weekend. Individuals who have had connections with Mr Putin in the past or in the present have been targeted, opposition politicians have been assassinated, even foreign journalists are not safe on the streets of Russia today. Four people have died in Moscow alone under similar circumstances to Mr Nemtsov’s over the past ten years.
These murders are not endemic to Russia itself and have occurred in this country with the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive compound Polonium in London and the suspicious death of Boris Berezovsky, former Kremlin power broker turned Putin critic at his London home in 2013.
Statements of denial from the Kremlin are as regular as the morning paper. During this time the truth has been blurred, covered and cloaked in lies and rhetoric. That being said, Mr Putin deserves his day in court, even if it is in the form of this blog. For if we are to claim that we live in a fair and objective society, we must first practice what we preach.
So, what if Mr Putin was not directly responsible for the deaths of these individuals?
Who would be the most likely group to gain from discrediting the Russian government? Well the most obvious candidate, aside from half of the world’s countries would be the Russian opposition movement itself. By killing prominent individuals within their ranks, they could hope to engender a change in public opinion in Russia, polarizing anti-Putin sentiment both internally and internationally. The big issue with this is that the opposition movement remains a largely factional one, with no obvious unity and no means at their disposal to enact this heinous agenda.
An international power seeking to discredit Russia would have both means and opportunity. The obvious candidate for this would be the United States, in collusion with its allies within the European Union. However, agitating the Great Russian bear into a state of war would not be beneficial to them as most of their member states are in the firing line. Destabilizing Russia would be of greatest benefit to countries like China or the members of the oil producing nations of the Middle East.
A Russian economy in ruins or a Russia in a state of War would be both beneficial politically and economically to both of these groups. China could complete its great rehabilitation into international society and score untold political points by stepping in to mediate an end to the crisis. The oil producing nations of the Middle East would no doubt benefit from an interruption to or an ending of Russian gas supplies to the European Union. But would the benefits of this course of action justify the means?
The murder of a popular opposition politician, beloved by many Russians and a contemporary of Mr Putin would place his government in an increasingly hostile position, in terms of the amount of damage it could cause to Russia itself. Mr Putin may continue to deny his involvement but the world it seems has already made up its mind on the matter.
The murder and the subsequent protests, with its high media exposure may force Moscow to change its policies, but then again it may not. The mechanism of political change often relies on opposing forces and in Russian politics, opposition can often mean imprisonment and even death, as the weekend’s events has proven.
But what would such public killings achieve? Russia has ostracized itself from the international community, alienated many of its former satellites, caused irreparable harm to its own internal structure all to preserve the myth of the Soviet ideal and the failings of one man and one man alone: Vladimir Putin.
So is it worth it? Internal damage of the sort now being inflicted would only be risked if the truth was potentially more damaging both to Russia and Mr Putin himself.
Only then could you make the sort of calculations that end human lives. Only then could you entertain such notions.
Boris Nemtsov was a patriot, a man who believed passionately in Russia and like Boris the perpetrators of this crime may also believe passionately in Russia. But that is where the similarities end. He exercised his right to free speech, under the lawful government of his country and was ultimately killed for it. Four bullets may have ended his life, but those four bullets may have started a chain reaction in his beloved Russia leading to the creation of a fairer, freer Russia for Boris’s four children.
© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.