Nine Years Ago, Boris Nemtsov’s Murder Shook Russia

Nine Years Ago, Boris Nemtsov’s Murder Shook Russia

Nearly a decade ago, an adversary of Vladimir Putin, regarded as a “young reformer”, was assassinated. This figure, a former deputy prime minister, was on the cusp of becoming a favorite of Boris Yeltsin. The tragic incident occurred in the vicinity of the Kremlin, on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky bridge, which has now informally acquired his name. Demonstrations to remember him have been denied authorization in Russia, a country which has transitioned into a fascist regime, as emphasized by Oleg Orlov, the co-president of the Center for Human Rights. Despite this, flowers have been placed on the bridge by diplomats accredited to Moscow, creating an impromptu memorial which was swiftly dismantled by authorities.

The opponent of Putin was born in 1959 in Gorki (now known as Nizhni Novgorod). After graduating in Physics, he spent his early career as a researcher, until 1990 when he was elected in the first open elections to the Congress of people’s deputies. This was following his local advocacy against the establishment of additional nuclear power plants. At just 32 years of age, he became governor of Nizhni Novgorod. In March 1997, he was appointed as the first deputy prime minister and considered as a potential successor to the president. However, a financial crisis in the subsequent year, which led to the country defaulting on public debt payments, disrupted his political trajectory. Reflecting on this period, he stated in an interview that Yeltsin’s decision to favour Putin was his “biggest mistake”.

In 1999, the Putin opponent co-founded the Union of Right Forces, a coalition of liberal factions that gained a foothold in the Duma during the elections that year. He was then appointed as the deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament. However, the party was unable to surpass the electoral threshold in 2003. Consequently, he became a prominent critic of Putin’s regime. He was also a key figure in the 2011-2012 protests, although younger activists like Aleksei Navalny gained more recognition, both domestically and internationally.

He was an outspoken critic of the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s involvement in the civil war in Donbass. He also condemned the actions of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his militias. Interestingly, five Chechens were implicated in his assassination, similar to the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

On the day of his assassination, he accused Putin of transforming Russia into a “recruiting office” during an interview with Radio Eco in Moscow. He worked closely with Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a penal colony in the Omsk region, and Ilya Yashin, who is serving an eight-year-and-six-months sentence. Kara-Murza was instrumental in persuading American deputies and senators to pass the Magnitsky Act of 2012, while Yashin was involved in exposing the direct presence of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.