This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, March 2, 2015:
Russian President Vladimir Putin, former head of the KGB in the old Soviet Union, needs a new script writer. His denials and disclaimers about not having anything to do with the mounting number of murders of his opposition are becoming monotonous.
Following the murder of Boris Nemtsov Friday night, Putin not only disclaimed any knowledge of the matter but was sure that it was a ploy instigated by supporters of Nemtsov to make Putin look bad. One of Putin’s script writers, Dmitry Peskov, tried to cover for his boss:
[Mr. Putin] noted that this cruel killing has all the signs of a hit, and is a pure provocation … it’s an attempt to push the situation into complications, maybe even to destabilizing the situation in the country.
Putin had the chutzpah to send a telegram of condolences to Nemtsov’s 86-year-old mother, assuring her that “we will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this vile and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished.” To make sure that the investigation stays away from him, he’ll be running the investigation himself. Editors at The Washington Post laughed out loud:
In a country where the police and the judiciary have been perverted to serve only Mr. Putin and his regime, the fruits of that investigation – if any – will be hard to credit.
Nemtsov had just completed a radio interview during which he blasted Putin for his “mad, aggressive, and deadly policy of war against Ukraine,” adding:
This country needs political reform. When power is concentrated in the hands of one person and this person rules forever, this will lead to an absolute catastrophe.
Ever since he lost the presidency to Putin in 2000 Nemtsov has been a thorn in Putin’s side. Especially as Putin worked to return Russia back to the old Soviet Union which he ably served as head of the dreaded KGB. As Putin pressured his opposition either by jailing them, forcing them to leave the country, or killing them, only Nemtsov remained as the loudest and most determined voice of opposition. He has reported on Putin’s theft of $30 billion of the $50 billion earmarked for the Sochi Olympics. He has investigated Putin’s manipulation of the war in eastern Ukraine, all the while Putin was claiming innocence. On Sunday Nemtsov was going to release another report as part of his presentation to a rally documenting Putin’s involvement in that mess.
So, it was time to eliminate the pest. As Nemtsov finished dinner with his young female companion – a Ukrainian model 30 years his junior – he decided to go “white” (turn off any concern about his personal safety) and walk with her across Red Square to his apartment. Observers stated that Putin’s henchmen were watching Nemtsov’s every move, even if he walked blissfully unaware into the trap. A single gunman waited in the shadows near the bottom of the stairs leading to Nemtsov’s apartment and after the couple passed him, he emerged from the shadows and fired at least seven rounds at Nemtsov, hitting him four times in the back and killing him instantly. His companion apparently was unhurt and disappeared into the night, as did the shooter.
The ever-present police forces waited for eleven minutes before responding to the killing, while others were ransacking Nemtsov’s apartment, removing all evidence, documents and records pertaining to his investigation into Putin’s connections with Ukraine.
The media attempted to cover for Putin by coming up with all manner of foolish and transparent possible motives for the killing. The ever-trustworthy Russia Today said it was probably an Islamist attack for some unhappy comments Nemtsov had made earlier about the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Or it could have been related to some kind of shady business deal that Nemtsov was involved in that went bad. Or it could have been “a possible assault related to his personal life.”
Reuters was slightly more circumspect, suggesting that Putin’s “investigators” were looking into the possibility that Nemtsov was attacked because he was a Jew, and that it reflected the rise of anti-Semitism around the world. Or that he was attacked by prior arrangement in order to “blacken the president’s name.”
All of which sounded awfully familiar to observers watching the body count mount. When Anna Politkovskaya, a high-profile journalist and author of several books critical of Putin, was murdered in the elevator leading to her apartment (also in Moscow) on October 7, 2006, several were quick to note that this was Putin’s birthday and that her murder was likely a “gift” to Putin by his supporters.
This was denied by Putin, of course, on the grounds that her influence was so minute as to not be worth the trouble or the publicity that would come with a direct hit ordered from his office. Said Putin at the time:
This journalist was indeed a sharp critic of the present Russian authorities … but the degree of her influence over political life in Russia was extremely insignificant….
In my opinion, murdering such a person certainly does much greater damage [to my office] than her publications ever did.
Except for that strange series of circumstances that followed her murder, leading to the murder of other journalists with whom Politkovskaya was associated: Yuri Shchekochikhin, Galina Starovoitova, Sergei Tushenkov, and Artyom Borovik. The one name tied most closely to Putin’s savaging of his opposition, however, became known internationally: Alexander Litvinenko, who publicly accused Putin of ordering her murder. Within two weeks, Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium and, just before dying, wrote this for posterity:
[I will] name the bastard [responsible]. Anna Politkovskaya didn’t … so I will, for both of us: You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.
May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to my beloved Russia and its people.
The demonstration scheduled for Sunday to protest Putin’s manipulation of the Ukraine and Russia’s rapidly declining economy was turned instead into a memorial service for Nemtsov, and for Russia. Many of the 100,000 were observed to be weeping, not only for the silencing of the final voice opposing Putin, but for the recognition that Putin now has no resistance in his plans to return Russia to the old Soviet Union he knew so well while heading up the dreaded KGB.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was right: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” Perhaps Putin doesn’t need a new scriptwriter after all.
Washington Post: Russian opposition leaders see Kremlin links to Nemtsov slaying
Washington Post: Boris Nemtsov’s murder is another dark sign for Russia
Russia Today: Opposition leader Nemtsov’s murder caught on CCTV camera
Wall Street Journal: The Murder of Boris Nemtsov