Russians March in Mourning of Opposition Leader’s Death
Tens of thousands of Russians marched in Moscow today mourning the death of Boris Nemtsov. The human rights activist and critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government was shot to death on the night of Friday, February 27 while walking in the capital city. It is widely believed by Putin’s opposition that the Kremlin is responsible for the act.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 1, 2015
Reports from the ground spoke to the solemn and quiet mood of the march. Participants broke into anti-Putin chants from time to time, but for the most part the “only sound was the steady thwack of police helicopters overhead or the hum of police boats patrolling the shores of the Moscow River.” Widescale marches for a variety of causes from climate change to social justice are a hallmark of American culture; many of us have likely experienced at least one in our lifetimes and can easily recall the vibrations of the crowd, the yelling and clapping, and general energy. The near-silence reported today in Moscow is difficult to imagine. Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of the Putin government, calling out its actions in Ukraine in a radio interview only hours before his death. Fellow opposition leader Ilya Yashin weighed in on Nemtsov’s killing and lent weight to the belief that it was ordered by the government:
Essentially it is an act of terror. It is a political murder aimed at frightening the population, or the part of the population that supported Nemtsov or did not agree with the government. I hope we won’t get scared, that we will continue what Boris was doing.
Secretary of State John Kerry took to the Sunday morning shows to lend the official American perspective on the killing. He asserted that the U.S. does not have any information what happened or who shot Netsov, but that he is pushing for a “thorough, transparent, real investigation, not just of who fired the shots, but who, if anyone, may have ordered or instructed [the shooting].” Members of Congress expressed their condolences and outrage over Nemtsov’s death, including Senator John McCain (R-A) via Twitter:
McCain also released a statement that directly addressed Nemtsov’s fight against the Kremlin and the need for continued pressure to decrease human rights abuses in Russia.
That Boris’ murder occurred in a secure part of the Russian capital raises legitimate questions about the circumstances of his killing and who was responsible. But regardless of who actually pulled the trigger, Boris is dead because of the environment of impunity that Vladimir Putin has created in Russia, where individuals are routinely persecuted and attacked for their beliefs.
Whether or not a fair investigation will be conducted into Boris Nemtsov’s death, the fact remains that tensions in Russia are nearing a boiling point, and the international community can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the region.