Late last week marked the first anniversary of the murder of Boris Nemstov. The 55-year old politician, who was a vocal opponent and co-chairman of the liberal People’s Freedom Party in Russia, was assassinated on February 27, 2015, shot several times in the back while crossing a bridge in central Moscow. He was murdered two days before he was to participate in a protest against Russian involvement in the Ukrainian civil war.
A little over a week after his death, Russian police arrested and charged two suspects, Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadaev, both from the Northern Caucausus. Dadaev stated that he was hired by a man named Ruslik, who gave him money, a car, and a gun for the murder. Three other men, also Chechen, have been charged. As of today, we do not who, or why, this “Ruslik” wished Nemstov dead. And it is unlikely we ever will. Immediately, and even today, some believe that the order came from the Russian government, maybe even President Putin himself. Is it a whacky conspiracy? Hard to say, but it’s important to look at what legacy Nemstov’s death has left.
Today, after a year, his death is not forgotten. Indeed, to many Russian opposition leaders, he has become a martyr against Putin’s policies. The current president of the People’s Freedom Party, Mikhail Kasyanov, stated,”The authorities did not allow us to march to the bridge, because they are afraid of the symbolism of Boris’s murder place…But we already call the bridge after him, we call it ‘Nemtsov Bridge’ and we will succeed in mounting a memorial plaque at the scene of Boris’s murder.”
Boris Nemstov even affected people outside of Russia. The council in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has decided to rename a street in his honor. The resolution stated that, by doing so, “we will affirm our determination to be on the side of a free, open and democratic world.”
So far, his legacy has been positive.
Not so in the Russian government.
The State Duma, the lower legislative house, refused to honor the popular political leader on the anniversary of his death. Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov came up with the suggestion to take a moment of silence in the session. He stated that “this is not a question of politics, this is a question of ethics and a humane attitude toward the person who worked in the State Duma as a faction leader and was the first deputy prime minister.” However, this proposition was quickly rejected, supposedly for legal reasons, as it could only be held if President Putin declared a national day of mourning. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he did not.