Why Boris Nemzow was murdered - English

Dial M for Murder

By Alexandr Sambuk4.03.2015Global Policy

The murder of Putin’s critic Boris Nemzow was a message. But who was it for?

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Just a few days after the murder of Boris Nemtsov, it is too early to foresee the political consequences in Russia. It is, however, clear that a red line was crossed, both consciously and purposefully. The question remains: Who crossed it?

The Kremlin is not necessarily the place to look for the murderer. But the Kremlin is without a doubt the greatest vantage point to look at the deed. Even with the little facts we have, one gets the impression that the assassination of one of Putins most charismatic “domestic enemies“ was staged to be viewed from here.

The murderers sense of symbolism

Neither time nor place of the murder were left to chance. The perpetrators displayed a keen sense for symbolism when they chose February 27 – the day when the Russian state annually celebrates its covert operations. The perpetrators made sure that their performance would be traceable. That way, Nemzow’s murder became a message to the experts, a message with a copyright. Perhaps it is their way of applying for celebration.

Amateur-killers stand nearly no chance of working in the Kremlin area. Around the clock, state security closely monitors each movement, including on the Moskworezkij bridge. If even inexperienced and unauthorized TV journalists dared to film in this area, security guards would rush to interrogate them within minutes. It is absurd to believe that a killer could stay undisturbed while wiretapping their victim’s cellphone to make contingency plans for the murder.

Some might say I am buying into a conspiracy theory here. But the opposite is true: I am not trying to undermine the expertise of criminalists and detectives. I would gladly hear their explanation why, for example, all surveillance cameras were either broken or pointed away when the murder was committed. What I want to know is why some people ever believed that this murder could be solved objectively.

Decoding the signal

Boris Nemzow’s assassination is a message. The question that remains is what it says and whom it was intended for.

It could be interpreted as an appeal to Putin: To act as resolutely in his own country as he has in Ukraine over the past year – ruthlessly and ignorant towards the consequences of his behavior. Presuming this true, members of the militia and ideologists of the Noworossija projekt, looking for a possibility to show solidarity with Putin in his fight against the West, are likely to be responsible for the deed.

But the murder of a prominent opposition politician might also be a service act. Last year, Putin proclaimed a new agenda for his country, including many new goals (or targets): “fifth column”, “traitors”, “Russophobes“. After publishing such a list of public enemies, he only needed to wait for according action by the government services. These new old terms seemed like an invitation or an encouragement to “take action“. Or does anyone really believe that Putin only wanted to stir up the patriotic masses among the Russian citizenry?

Certainly not, because that would mean ignoring certain state structures – with uncertain consequences. Instead, state organs have been fulfilling their duties to the best of their ability. Over the past 15 years, the Russian administration has done everything in its power to keep disturbances away from the head of state – be it traffic jams, inappropriate questions from journalists, or political competition.

On the eve of February 27, a killer did his job on a bridge near the Kremlin. Then the investigators and media professionals came into play. They made sure Putin knew everyone was still in the same boat with him. This way, when a Western journalist asked the inevitable question (“Who murdered Boris Nemtsov?“), Putin’s reply could be simple and honest: „A killer“.

_Translated from German_

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