NEWSWATCH: Russia’s Army of Avengers: Masha Gessen on the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
[“Russia’s Army of Avengers: Masha Gessen on the Murder of Boris Nemtsov” – Masha Gessen – New York Times – March 2, 2015]
Masha Gessen covers the assassination in Moscow of Russia opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.
The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone. ‘He was no threat to the current Russian leadership and to Vladimir Putin,’ said the Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, eerily echoing comments the president made in 2006, when the opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed. By this Mr. Peskov meant that the Kremlin did not kill Mr. Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister, who was gunned down in central Moscow on Friday night.
In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing – and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.
Gessen follows the Jewish Nemtsov’s unique route through Russian politics, from perestroika to young deputy prime minister under Yeltsin, and potential Yeltsin successor, to eventual opposition figure after being gradually marginalized by the newly anointed Putin.
While not having been a significant threat to Putin, Nemtsov was gunned down amidst a push by the Kremlin for a pro-Kremlin, anti-opposition fury among its followers. The assassination occurred close to the Kremlin, in an area under government surveillance.
… Mr. Nemtsov made every internet list of “enemies of Russia” circulated by the Kremlin’s supporters.
In the almost three years since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency, and especially in the year since Russia annexed Crimea, the Kremlin has increasingly focused on the enemy within. A new movement called Anti-Maidan marched through Moscow two weeks ago calling for violence against the “fifth column.” At least one of the signs carried at the march named Mr. Nemtsov as the organizer of the Ukrainian revolution.
Less than a week after that march, and just before the one he had organized, Mr. Nemtsov was gunned down while walking a bridge that spans the Moscow River right in front of the Kremlin. It is under constant camera and live surveillance. The message was clear: People will be killed in the name of the Kremlin, in plain view of the Kremlin, against the backdrop of the Kremlin, simply for daring to oppose the Kremlin.