Firstly the Putin propagandists are trying to talk down the importance of Nemtsov. As usual they are lying. He had been First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia 17 March 1997 – 28 April 1998 and Deputy Prime Minister of Russia 28 April – 28 August 1998. When he died he was co-chair of the Republican Party of Russia – People’s Freedom Party (RPR-PARNAS), a registered political party. So he was one of the top political figures in Russia. Before Putin’s coup d’etat in 1998/9 Nemtsov was a very likely candidate for the Presidency. And if Putin’s gangster clique had been removed from power then Nemtsov was among the very most likely to take over.
Of course the average Russian citizen doesn’t see that. Russian media is in a constant accolade to the amazing Vladimir Putin whilst opposition figures are barred from coverage.
Nemtsov was a thorn in Putin’s side because he was anti corruption and pro democracy. But the biggest problem was that he was the focal point and the main campaigner against Putin’s war in Ukraine.
We see a pattern here, Chechnya and Ukraine. Both wars created by Putin, both wars meeting resistance at home. Both times this domestic opposition encountering state violence against them. Putin is ruthless against his own people when they don’t agree with him.
Nemtsov was assassinated in the centre of Moscow, right next to the Kremlin, in an area tightly controlled by Putin’s security services. This itself was a huge message. Letting everyone know who has the power and that nobody is safe unless they conform to the will of Putin.
So let’s look at who the message of the assassination was aimed at:
Kremlin insiders. The gangsters who run Russia and extract its wealth for themselves consist of just over 100 ex FSB Putin cronies from St Petersburg. But Putin has to keep them all happy and onside. Already one of them, Roman Tsepov, has been killed by the state, poisoned with radioactive material, just like Alexander Litvinenko was. Recently there has been much talk of this clique being very unhappy about Putin’s Ukraine war, which nobody except Putin wants. Now Putin has brought this clique in line, they know that it would be very unhealthy to voice any disapproval over Putin’s actions. They don’t want to become the next Nemtsov or the next Tsepov.
The Russian people. They really are mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed bullshit. They really believe that Putin is a hero because they are told this many times every day. But just now quite a few of their sons are coming home in body bags. No only that, thanks to Putin’s economic incompetence, the collapsed oil price and Western sanctions the Russian economy is in freefall. Hard time lie ahead. Putin, due to his propaganda, has a near 90% approval rating. Much as Hitler and Stalin once did. He needs to keep this. So he can use Nemtsov’s killing as a demonstration of what a great leader he is. Blame it on the CIA or the Ukrainians to justify his actions.
Ukrainians. The message is that the gloves are off, the days of hybrid warfare are over. Putin is going to take what he wants and nobody is going to stop him.
The former Soviet states. Armenia; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Estonia; Georgia; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Moldova; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; Uzbekistan. Here the message is that history has been rolled back, the Kremlin is back in charge. There might be some debate in the Baltics but everyone now knows not to stand up against Putin.
NATO. Here we see brinkmanship. Putin is saying that all treaties and agreements are null and void (see the Budapest Memorandum) and that he is just going to get on with taking what he wants and that he isn’t afraid to escalate right up to nuclear if they try to stop him. He really is a rabid dog.
The Nemtsov murder tells all these people exactly where they stand. Putin is a ruthless psychopath who will act without planning. Although Russia is economically insignificant in world terms and isn’t really much of a military power (except for the nukes) Putin is throwing his weight around like he owns the place and nobody seems to want to stop him.
Earlier articles in this series, click on the highlighted text to see them: