It takes a certain amount of stupidity (naiveté for the more polite crowd) for Western commentators to believe that Russian police would ever find the assassins of the country’s former deputy prime minister and president Vladimir Putin’s opponent Boris Nemtsov.
They would have to name one of their own.
And it takes a certain amount of gall bordering on outright chutzpah for Putin to write the murder victim’s mother to tell her he’s going to do whatever to takes to find those guilty of the crime and bring them to justice.
This is not to say Putin himself ordered the murder. As a former high-ranking KGB officer, he’s perfectly aware of the concept known as plausible deniability.
Here’s what’s going to help Russian authorities in their potential cover-up:
In addition to criticizing Russia’s government for corruption that has reached truly Byzantine levels, Nemtsov was also critical of lacking human rights, as well as of misdeeds by local authorities in the Yaroslavl region whence he had come.
Except: all those he had been critical of were linked to president Putin (and his office) in one way or another.
In particular, Nemtsov was highly critical of the expenses brought upon the nation by the Sochi Olympic Games organizers at a time when the majority of the population is close to starving.
Russia’s official investigators have already advanced several theories to explain Nemtsov’s death.
First, they suggested that Nemtsov is a victim of a provocation aimed at causing harm to the Kremlin (and the presidency) itself. It’s an attempt to destabilize the political situation in the country. They have said it with straight faces, pretending the political situation in Russia was indeed stabilized. It’s anything but.
Secondly, they came up with an Islamist revenge angle because Nemtsov had been highly critical of the recent attack against the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. So were many others critical of the attack. Why single out an opposition politician in the distant country of Russia?
No explanation for that, either.
And, of course, the third option’s got something to do with the developments in Ukraine. What exactly, the investigators wouldn’t reveal. Not in any detail, in any case.
Not a word about Nemtsov’s anti-graft campaign.
Former chess champion Gary Kasparov, who’s not on friendly terms with Putin’s administration, either, suggested Russia’s president didn’t necessarily personally issue thee order to kill Nemtsov. No need to. He did create an atmosphere in the country where political assassinations have become the norm rather than an exception.
That contrasts wildly with a statement by a Moscow-appointed ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. So far as he is concerned, it was the bloody Western imperialists, acting in cahoots with the Ukrainians, who did Nemtsov in.
Considering the series of politically-motivated murders, one wonders. All of the victims attracted Putin’s wrath in one way or another, and all of them were dangerous to him.
How about the former Soviet (and, later, Russian) spy Alexander Litvinenko? Responsible for investigations of what the Russians call euphemistically “organized crime,” Litvinenko said the government was responsible for the murder of Boris Berezovskii, a Russian oligarch whose commercial interests interfered with commercial interests of those in Putin’s circle.
A couple of Russian intelligence agents paid a visit to Litvinenko in London. Shortly afterwards he died of cancer caused by a dose of radioactive polonium these two somehow introduced into his cup of tea.
Or how about the murder of a fascinating Russian reporter, Anna Politkovskaia? She reported on Russian atrocities in Chechnya. She also exposed a number of illegal deals in which money flowed into the Kremlin and into Putin’s pockets.
Russian police said it was several people who had been guilty. Judging by their names, all of them are of Muslim origin. That still doesn’t even begin to explain why the Politkovskaia was murdered on Oct. 7 (in 2006). The day just happens to be Vladimir Putin’s birthday.
Russian courts sentenced the five alleged culprits to a variety of prison terms. They all appealed. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next.
Sergei Magnitskii, a lawyer who exposed massive corruption that involved a private investment fund and several high-ranking Russian government officials, was arrested on trumped-up charges of tax evasion. He died in prison. Pancreatic complaint was the official reason. Marks of severe beating found on his body suggest otherwise.
Alexander Perepilichnyi, another Russian entrepreneur who dared expose the Kremlin’s financial misdeeds, died in circumstances similar to Alexander Litvinenko’s premature demise.
One of the few things that seem to be certain is that Boris Nemtsov is dead and that the killing weapon was a Makarov nine-millimetre gun, a pistol in use in the Russian army and popular with the country’s police.
And the other thing we know for sure is that Vladimir Putin has one less dangerous opponent to contend with.