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The alleged killers of Boris Nemtsov have been apprehended, and they are (a dramatic pause) some Muslims from Chechnya who allegedly desired to punish the politician for his Je suis Charlie position. There is no official report available yet, but this implausible version is being promoted in Moscow. What’s that, a poor man’s 9/11? Indeed, the Russian politician’s assassination seems to be produced by the same great studio that gave us 9/11, the Boston Marathon, the Charlie killings. These crimes in New York, Boston, Paris and now Moscow have two common features: Muslims are accused of committing them, and there is a very strong and widespread lack of belief in this accusation and in the details of the crime as published.
These doubtful crimes have an additional common quality: their striking visual aspect. Nemtsov’s death wasn’t on the Twin Towers scale, but the flamboyant playboy and opposition politician was dispatched in style. Fluffy snow falling upon the bridges over Moscow River with brightly-lit polychrome domes of St Basil’s Cathedral and the red crenelated walls of Kremlin provided a perfect background. Add six bullets, a white American car the assassins used to flee the scene, and a beautiful Ukrainian model Anna, 23, stooping over the prostrated body of her dead lover, and you’ll get a haunting picture Raymond Chandler could script and Howard Hawks direct. Or perhaps James Cameron of the Titanic would be a better choice.
A tinge of envy may be felt in my description. Nemtsov had a charming life, and a beautiful timely death, too. A young physics graduate, he was elevated by the revolution of 1991, made a governor of a major city, a deputy prime minister, a claimant to presidency, a dollar millionaire. Since 2000, his life in politics went downhill by virtue of his previous success. Nemtsov was generally considered an enabler of the grand larceny of Russia by the oligarchs, a promoter of “robber privatisation”. This was confirmed by Mr Ponomaryev MP, his friend and a prominent oppositionist. Some of Yeltsin’s cadres retained important positions in Putin’s Russia to this very day, but Nemtsov was not among them.
His attempts to get elected as a mayor or a parliament member all failed. He had little to do, but to enjoy life, womanising, drinking, dining and nursing his resentment of Putin, with whom he had been on first-name-terms. Still, he wasn’t bitter but cheerful. At 55, he was a has-been, nothing to expect, but going to demos and repeating the same dreary slogan of Down with Putin as he did on the US-owned and financed channels. He was killed Friday night, and on Sunday he was supposed to go to Maryino, a dreary suburb of Moscow, to demonstrate against inflation. The assassination saved him from this tedious task: he died still youngish, still slim and lithe, still a curly gypsy boy, in the arms of a delectable young thing.
His death also saved the demo, the first pro-Western demo in Moscow for months, from an expected debacle. Not many people were supposed to come, the white-band movement was practically gone. With his death, the Sunday demo was cancelled and instead, a mourning march took place that attracted some fifty thousand citizens, a respectable number. However, the march was peaceful, and no violent confrontations issued.
The Western mainstream media went to full attack mode, like they did at the Malaysian airliner crash. They accused Putin of sending his henchmen to kill, for he was afraid of Nemtsov’s political clout. This story could work for external use only: Russians would never believe that Putin sent the killers. It is not his style. And Nemtsov was not a threat to anybody. Internally, the pro-Western Russian media said that Putin was responsible for Nemtsov’s death because he ignited hatred to “the fifth column”.
Actually, there is much of mutual hatred between ordinary Russians and pro-Western opposition. The oppositionists call their fellow citizens “vermin” and “rednecks” (“vata”), claiming in rather racist way that they belong to different species. Their chances to gain power by elections are nil. They are useful for Putin, as they solidify his popular support by their hatred. He is aware of it, and he is not likely to kill these useful props.
Many Russians believe (on the qui bono basis) the killing was ordered by Nemtsov’s competitors within the pro-Western opposition, such as Mr Khodorkovsky, a ruthless oligarch with many dead bodies in his history and nine years of jail behind his back. But majority ascribes the murder to the Western secret services attempting to destabilise Russia.
Russia is not an Arab state, but the organisers of Nemtsov’s assassination perhaps forgot this geographic fact. During the Arab Spring, the killing of an opposition figure invariably triggered a popular uprising in the capital, the uprising caused a harsh government response, more bloodshed, international condemnation, government collapse and establishment of a new ruler, more pleasing to the revolution sponsors. This routine was scripted in the booklet by Gene Sharp, the wise man of NED (The National Endowment for Democracy), a semi-clandestine branch of the US intelligence in charge of “colour revolutions”.
You can’t always rely upon generosity of the government, oppressive though it may be, that they will kill the right sort of person in the right time and place. That’s why les forces obscures behind the revolutions prefer to make the killing themselves and blame in on the government. This is called a ‘sacrifice routine’. An improved form of the sacrifice script was activated in the Ukraine last year, when few dozen activists were shot by mysterious snipers. The snipers disappeared, but international condemnation led to the President’s flight, and to the coup d’état, establishing a pro-Western nationalist regime.
Russians were wise to this scheme. During the 2011 wave of unrest, the government was careful to create no martyrs, and the revolutionary crowd was timid enough to comply. Now, in 2015, there was no visible reason for worry. A vast majority (86%) of Russians support the President, while pro-Western opposition has dwindled. The activists were lazy and greedy, the Western emissaries said. They were angry at the opposition leaders for not trying hard enough to remove Putin. If you take our cookies you should do some work for us, this line was attributed to the State Department people in Moscow. John Tefft, the US Ambassador to Russia, was widely quoted as saying a week before the assassination, that “Messrs Navalny and Nemtsov will make a great contribution to our cause in the nearest future”. Mr Alexey Navalny, the most visible opposition leader, avoided “making a contribution” by getting himself imprisoned for a small offence during the crucial week. Perhaps he got the hint, people say.
Anyway, while the mourning and the funeral did not cause any breach of peace, the march did not turn into a Maidan or Tahrir, and Bernard Henri Levi did not land on the Red Square, Putin’s government got cold feet. For a long eight days Russian police looked for the murderers, and meanwhile the Yeltsin’s cadres, people of the Nineties assaulted Putin from within and the Western media and officials from without. President Putin is not a Genghis Khan; he is a non-confrontational bloke whose great ambition is to live in peace and harmony with the West while defending Russia’s vital interests, and supporting the interests of Russia’s wealthies and worthies. He also wants to be accepted as an equal among the world’s great, East and West. His desire to be popular and accepted abroad never reached the sick extreme of Mikhail Gorbachev or Anwar as-Sadat, but he was upset that the Western public were convinced he personally shot Nemtsov from his bedroom window in Kremlin for the heck of it. Discovering the assassins of Nemtsov received their brief from a Mrs Nuland of this world would never pass the muster in the West.
“Muslim extremists” are patsies nobody can reasonably object to. If they killed cartoonists in Paris and dropped the Towers in New York, they could kill a minor politician in Moscow. Prescient Mr Eduard Limonov, a writer and a revolutionary, predicted this choice on March, 3d: “the Russian administration would prefer Nemtsov being killed by an Islamic extremist. It is most improbable, but this version would allow them to get close to the West. Islamic extremists are a common enemy… Russia wants to get closer to the West while preserving its own dignity. And what could be better for this purpose than a still warm dead body of a common victim killed by a common enemy?”
This version is not entirely fanciful: Russia’s pro-West liberal opposition is Islamophobe and Zionist. The late Mr Nemtsov was true to form: he hated ‘gooks’, spoke in favour of Charlie Hebdo, supported Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and had a nice old Jewish mother. In his last text he referred to Russia’s FBI as ‘filth’ and suggested they should go and fight Islamic terrorists in Chechnya instead of bothering liberals. (A macho man, he described Putin’s party as ‘buggers’ in this interview).
Nemtsov was not worse than any other leader of Russia’s liberal opposition. Khodorkovsky (now the leader) called upon every Russian newspaper to print a daily Prophet Muhammad cartoon; Echo Moskvy Ganapolsky called Muslims “non-human”; the voice of the opposition Makarevich went to Israel to support Liberman, the far-right Jewish nationalist; Julia Latynina blessed Jewish cannons destroying Arab vermin of Gaza. Still, one has to start somewhere, supposedly mused the “Muslim extremists” and started with Mr Nemtsov .
Many people doubt this version. Are they “truthers”? ‘Truthers’ are not a small sect anymore: people disbelieve what they are told, they distrust pictures they are being shown and they reject explanations being given. But the Russian Truthers are embraced by the Western media that shied from the Western Truthers. Vladimir Milov, a leading oppositionist questioned the details of Nemtsov’s assassination in much the same vein as Truthers doubted the Charlie or Marathon killings. He arrived to the same conclusion as Truthers: killings were done by Secret Services. But in a CNN interview, Christiane Amanpour calls a Russian politician Sergey Markov “a conspiracy theorist” for refusing to accept Russian Truthers’ version of events. So your freedom fighter is my terrorist, while your official version is my conspiracy theory.
Will Nemtsov’s murder have an impact on developments in Russia? It is plausible that Putin will try to be more accommodating towards the West and towards Kiev regime. The Russians are worried that pro-Western neoliberal party will regain the positions they lost after 2000, and a dead Nemtsov will indeed be more useful for his cause than a live one.