On the murder of Boris Nemtsov | Den norske Helsingforskomité

On the murder of Boris Nemtsov

On the murder of Boris Nemtsov

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is saddened and shocked by the news of the murder of Russia’s prominent opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, shot dead the in the heart of Moscow in the late evening of 27 February.
– The murder of Boris Nemtsov must be independently and transparently investigated and the people responsible be brought to justice, whether they pulled the trigger or ordered the killing, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – We express our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Boris Nemtsov.

He was one of the few Russian political leaders who have stood by the principles of democracy and human rights since he appeared in Russian politics in the 1990’s. He was an open and courageous person and an experienced politician com mitted to strengthening Russia, just the kind of politician needed in Russia today, Engesland adds.

Whoever committed this crime, the responsibility for the killing of Nemtsov ultimately lies with the Russian authorities, who through persecution, harassment and propaganda have created a dangerous atmosphere for the liberal opposition and civil society groups. Pro-Kremlin propaganda in state-controlled media routinely depicts civil society as enemies and presents stories about a “fifth column” and “traitors of the nation”, which in turn has encouraged contempt and hatred towards critical voices and may have prepared the ground for this heinous act.

Background for campaign against opposition and civil society groups

Although it may be true that Boris Nemtsov after the early 2000’s no longer represented a political threat against the current Russian regime, he became a courageous activist who exposed nepotism, corruption and abuse of power to a wide audience in Russia and abroad. A well-known example is the report he published on the preparations for the Sochi Olympics, where he claimed at least half of the state funds were lost in corruption[1]. Another example was Putin and Gazprom and Putin. The Results [2].

For his work as a whistle blower on state abuse of power, Nemtsov was constantly and repeatedly criticized, arrested and physically assaulted. A year ago, after the annexation of Crimea and the following military expansion to Eastern Ukraine, a banner was hung from the famous bookstore Arbat in Moscow with the following text: The fifth column. Aliens among us. The text was accompanied by photos of the most known critics of the annexation of Crimea[3]. Boris Nemtsov’s photo was among them.

Since 2012 the Russian Duma has adopted several laws curtailing basic rights and freedoms in Russia. The most famous of them is dubbed the “foreign agent law”[4], which forces civil society to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from abroad and are considered to carry out “political activities”. Russian state TV calls for mobilization against external and internal enemies, spies and traitors, in a campaign to a large degree based on conspiracy theories and fabricated “facts”. On Sunday March 1, an incriminating film about Boris Nemtsov was supposed to have been aired on state TV, but was withdrawn after his death last Friday[5].

Despite the pressure he was subjected to, Boris Nemtsov refused to flee the country. Instead, he continued to address the most controversial issues in Russia. Recently Boris Nemtsov said he was working on a report supposedly detailing Kremlin’s military involvement in the conflict in the Eastern Ukraine [6]. Hopefully, the report will be published after his death.

[1] http://grani.ru/Society/Sports/m.215158.html

[2] http://www.putin-itogi.ru/

[3] http://argumenti.ru/society/2014/04/331512

[4] Read NHCs policy paper Russia's Foreign Agent Law here

[5] http://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/1692005.html

[6] http://www.unian.net/world/1050027-nemtsov-hotel-opublikovat-doklad-o-donbasse-putin-i-voyna-dvoyurodnyiy-brat-politika.html