Honoring Nemtsov, a call for action


Thousands of people marched in honor of slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov on February 27, one year after he was shot dead near the Kremlin. Five suspects have been charged in the case, but the identity of the mastermind behind the killing remains unknown, RFE/RL reports.

Demonstrators chanted slogans like “We won’t forget, we won’t forgive,” “Down with the police state,” and “Russia will be free,” as well as “Putin and Kadyrov are a disgrace to Russia,” referring to President Vladimir Putin and his close ally Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, VICE adds:

Zaur Dadayev, the deputy commander of a battalion of Chechen security forces known for its loyalty to Kadyrov, has been charged with killing Nemtsov with four pistol shots to the back, but the suspected mastermind of the crime is still at large.

Nemtsov was shot days before he was due to release report on alleged Russian military involvement in the Ukraine conflict, but the anniversary of his murder has been met with both suspicion and indifference.

U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation today honoring Nemtsov and renewing a call for a full and transparent investigation into his murder.

“The courageous work of Boris Nemtsov deserves our recognition,” said Johnson and Cardin. “He dedicated his life to the cause of democracy and in support of the desire of the Russian people to live with basic human and civil rights and according to democratic standards. He was assassinated because he raised his voice to expose government corruption and to stand in opposition to President Putin’s authoritarianism.”

In memory of Nemtsov, “a hero not only of his country but of what I would call the Democratic International, I would like to offer a few broad conclusions that I have drawn from the horror of his fate,” Leon Wieseltier, the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution, writes for the American Interest:

  • The first conclusion is this. Freedom is not to be confused with democracy. Democracy is only one of the things that can be done with freedom. When a dictatorship crumbles, a society is emancipated outwardly but not yet inwardly. Or to put it differently, when you emancipate a society you mean emancipate the actually existing people who comprise that society, their demons as well as their angels. …
  • The second conclusion is this. There is moral and historical progress, but it is never linear, never direct, never final, and there is nothing inevitable about the emergence of democracy from the ruins of dictatorship. The push forward brings the pull backward—brings the bullets in Boris Nemtsov’s back. The much-discussed arc of history bends this way and that, cruelly and benevolently and cruelly again, inconsistently, contradictorily, fitfully, and provides no grounds for confidence that its ultimate end is justice. ….
  • The third conclusion is this. Outrage without action is just a sanctimonious cynicism. Outrage without action is just a sanctimonious cynicism. There was outrage in the aftermath of Nemtsov’s assassination, just as there was outrage when Putin’s wild clients in Ukraine shot a civilian airliner out of the sky. But there were no consequences commensurate with the outrage. …….
  • The fourth conclusion is this. The twentieth century is not without lessons for the twenty-first. The cold war remains pertinent to the predicament in which we now find ourselves. This is, these days, a deeply heretical proposition….RTWT

Nemtsov’s murder was a terrible blow to the opposition and an unwelcome jolt to the political élite, the New Yorker’s Joshua Yaffa contends:

Gleb Pavlovsky, a former political adviser to Putin who has become a critic of the Kremlin, told me, when I spoke to him for a magazine piece earlier this month, that Putin was “obviously stunned” by Nemtsov’s murder. “As a political assassination, this is direct interference in the politics of the federal center, and, what’s more, right under Putin’s nose.” …..

On February 23rd, Ilya Yashin, a close friend and political ally of Nemtsov’s, released a report that outlines a number of well-known allegations against Kadyrov, from widespread corruption to involvement in a number of killings, including Nemtsov’s. For Yashin, Kadyrov shows the Putin system to be hollow, a false projection of strength that masks something much more dangerous. “It turns out Putin doesn’t control anyone in this country, it’s all bravado, all this talk that he’s created this machine, this vertical of power.”

The West’s democracies have failed to rally in support of Russia’s beleaguered democrats, say Ellen Bork and David J. Kramer, respectively senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative and visiting fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, and senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute.

So far, however, the Obama administration has not responded to the recent threats against the democratic opposition, they write for the Washington Post:

Just as troubling is its grudging, circumscribed implementation of the Magnitsky Act, the primary vehicle for exerting leverage on Putin over respect for individual rights in Russia. The most recent additions to the Magnitsky sanctions list were five low-level Russian officials. No senior Russian officials or members of Putin’s inner circle have been publicly sanctioned under the act, which imposes a U.S. visa ban and asset freeze on Russian officials involved in gross human rights abuses….The United States is not alone in this approach. British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he will keep calm and carry on with relations with Moscow despite the conclusion of an inquiry in January that Putin “probably” approved the murder of former spy Alexander Litvinenko in a London hotel.

U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation today honoring Nemtsov and renewing a call for a full and transparent investigation into his tragic murder in Moscow on Feb. 27, 2015.

The Johnson-Cardin resolution:

  • Recognizes the legacy of courageous Russian opposition leader Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov, who dedicated his life to fighting corruption and promoting the principles of democracy, rule of law, and the inherent dignity of human beings;
  • Encourages the public release of all surveillance tapes from the area surrounding the crime scene to aid in the investigation;
  • Urges the United States government, in official contacts with representatives of the Russian government, to emphasize the importance of bringing to justice all of the conspirators in the murder of Boris Nemtsov; and
  • Calls on the president to significantly increase United States government support for the causes for which Boris Nemtsov gave his life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Atlantic Council will host a discussion on “Human Rights Abuses in Putin’s Russia.” The event will feature Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill,; Robert Berschinski, deputy assistant secretary of State in the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy; Paula Dobriansky, senior fellow at Harvard University’s JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; and John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center. 2:30 PM, Room TBA, Dirksen Senate Office Building. RSVP

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