Saturday, February 28, 2015

After Boris Nemtsov’s Assassination, ‘There Are No Longer Any Limits’

By JULIA IOFFE, NYT, FEB. 28, 2015

On Friday evening, Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, went on a prominent Moscow radio station to exhort his fellow citizens to come out to protest President Vladimir Putin’s policies. There would be a rally on Sunday, a spring march, to demonstrate against the deepening economic crisis and Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. The most prominent Russian opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, had been put in jail for 15 days, which just happened to be long enough to keep him from attending the rally. Nemtsov, who was older and, by now, less influential, had handed out leaflets in the metro and encouraged people to come anyway.

After the radio show, on which Nemtsov warned that too much power in the hands of one man would “end in catastrophe,” he met Anna Duritskaya, his girlfriend of three years — and, as the police would later pointedly note, a citizen of Ukraine. They had dinner and then headed home, strolling across Red Square and past the swirling domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, adjacent to the Kremlin. Just before midnight, as they crossed the bridge toward the historic Moscow neighborhood where Nemtsov lived, a white car pulled up, and, according to investigators, someone inside fired seven or eight shots. Four of them hit Nemtsov in the head, heart, liver and stomach, killing him on the spot.

Duritskaya was unharmed and immediately taken in for questioning. Nemtsov, a big, broad man, was left on the pavement in the rain, his shirt yanked up to his chin.

On Russian social media, liberal Moscow has struggled to wrap its head around something that seemed like it simply couldn’t happen, until it did. It had been years since Nemtsov, a rising star in Yeltsin-era politics, had been the standard-bearer of Western liberalism, and he could be a silly bon vivant. But he was deeply intelligent, witty, kind and ubiquitous. He seemed to genuinely be everyone’s friend; when I lived in Moscow as a journalist, he was always willing to jaw over endless glasses of cognac. And he was a powerful, vigorous critic of Vladimir Putin, assailing him in every possible medium, constantly publishing reports on topics like the president’s lavish lifestyle and the corruption behind the Sochi Olympics.

(More here.)

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