World Affairs 3/01/2015 @ 7:24PM 1,641 views
Videotape of Nemtsov Murder Suggests High-Level Assistance
There may be no place in Moscow more secure than the massive Kremlin complex where Vladimir Putin and his Presidential Apparat work. The Bolshoi Moskvaretsky Bridge, from which pedestrians can catch spectacular views of the Kremlin, falls within this zone of highest security.
Moskovsky Komsomolets, MKRu is not an opposition newspaper, but it is known for publishing sensational and provocative material. MKRu has analyzed a surveillance camera videotape released by TVc.ru of the Bolshoi Moskvaretsky Bridge the night of the assassination. The videotape, assuming it is authentic, chronicles the killing of Nemtsov from his appearance on the bridge at 23:30:35, to his murder at 23.31.19, to the arrival of the police at 23.42:43, 11 minutes after the shooting.
The videotape was recorded by one of the hundreds of Moscow traffic cameras at various locations throughout Moscow, which are routinely broadcast on TV stations and the internet. The Bolshoi Moskvaretsky Bridge camera was located a substantial distance from the crime scene and its resolution is low, but it clearly shows the Nemtsov murder as it took place. Here is the sequence:
23:30:35: Camera shows Nemtsov and female companion walking on the pedestrian lane of bridge towards his apartment
23.31.16: A snowplow slowly passes the couple and stops ahead of them, obscuring them from the camera as they reach the snowplow.
23:31: 19: Nemtsov shot out of view of the camera.
23:31.23: Man appears from behind snowplow, gets into a car, and the car leaves the scene
23:31.27: Snowplow drives forwards some ten meters, leaving Nemtsov’s companion alone next to Nemtsov’s body
23:31:38: Nemtsov’s companion runs to snowplow, hides behind it
23:32:35: Pedestrians pass Nemtsov body, some ignore it, others stop and look
23.34:26: One pedestrian walks to snowplow and talks to driver
23.34:12: Same pedestrian returns to the body
23:35:43: Automobile stops next to the snow plow, leaves after a few seconds
23:36:25: Snowplow leaves the scene.
23:37:06: Another car stops, backs up at high speed to the body and to Nemtsov’s companion
23:37:23: Two men appear from under the bridge (presumably from a stairway)
23:37:36: Another car arrives at the scene
23:37:46: Both men climb in the two cars and drive off, leaving Nemtsov companion beside the body
23:42:43: Police appear on scene. Nemtsov companion taken into custody. Police wash the pavement around the crime scene.
The website Ukraine Today reports that the key witness to the crime, 23-year-old Anna Duritskaya, a Ukrainian citizen, can not be located by the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow. It cites a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, Ostap Semerak, as saying that she has been detained by Russian authorities.
According to the MKru commentator, the Bolshoi Moskvaretsky Bridge is not an ideal location for a contract killing, but the killers were professionals, able to organize an intricate political murder at a location filled with pedestrians and cars at midnight on a Friday night. Usually, such murders take place outside of the victim’s apartment. Perhaps the contractors wanted to show that no opposition figure is safe anywhere. It would have been much simpler to kill Nemtsov outside his apartment, as Politkovskaya was.
It seems unlikely that the Nemtsov murder could have gone down without the assistance of a number of authorities. The assassins had to know Nemtsov’s whereabouts and his likely route home. It appears that they may have organized the appearance of a snowplow, exactly timed to shield the murder from the surveillance camera (whose exact location they would need to know). It seems unlikely that the snowplow was there by chance. There was no snow, and the weather was unseasonably warm. The murderers had to conceal themselves while waiting for Nemtsov. The murderers required eleven minutes and three separate cars from the shooting to their final departure from the crime scene, more than ample time for the police to reach the scene. Given the heavy security in the area, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the police were looking the other way.
A real investigation to find the assassins would be a piece of cake: The driver of the snowplow surely could be found. There were numerous pedestrians and vehicles that drove by the scene. Nemtsov’s companion was an eyewitness to all these events.
The investigation is already a farce. No decent investigation would hose down the scene of the murder. Colleagues in Moscow report that it took the police 12 hours to locate the white Lada the assassins used, more than the usual time required. Kremlin spokespersons have already named their suspects (which do not include Kremlin officials or Putin) in this “provocation against the state.” Suspects include Ukraine, unidentified sinister forces, and Islamic extremists, angry at the murder victim for his support of Charlie Hebdo.
Boris Nemtsov, a leading and charismatic opposition figure, age 55, served as Deputy Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin. He was also mayor of Nizhny Novgorod before joining the liberal opposition to Putin. During his tenure under Yeltsin, Nemtsov was considered a possible successor, but was handicapped by the fact that he was Jewish. Nemtsov had expressed fears of being murdered shortly before his death. His last tweet to the people of Moscow read:
“If you support stopping Russia’s war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin’s aggression, come to the Spring March in Maryino on 1 March.”
According to Russian political commentator Ilya Milshtein, Nemtsov’s murder has the standard features of a Putin contract killing (See Paul Goble’s analysis). First the political opponent is marginalized to an insignificant figure, then killed, and the blame is shifted elsewhere. The basic proof of Kremlin innocence is always: “We have nothing to gain from this” – a defense used in the still unsolved murder of investigative journalist, Anna Politovskaya.
Putin’s Kremlin, contrary to its protestations, does have something to gain from Nemtsov’s murder, just as it gained from the murders of Politovskaya and a dozen or so of her reporter colleagues and from the polonium poisoning of intelligence defector, Alexander Litvinenko.
The Politovskaya murder signaled to reporters not to touch stories about atrocities and crimes against humanity in Chechnya. The Litvinenko murder told defectors with intelligence information they are not safe, even in England. Now Nemtsov’s killing tells opposition figures that the days of soft repression (beatings and jail) are over. If they want to continue their protests, they are risking their lives. Death can strike them at any moment, even on a crowded street.
True to form, the Putin propaganda machine began its spin less than an hour after the murder. A Kremlin spokesman stated that Putin regards “this cruel murder (as having) every sign of being a contract killing, which has a solely provocative nature.” In a condolence telegram to Nemtsov’s 86-year-old mother, Putin vowed to do “everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this vile and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished.” Putin’s notorious star-chamber Investigative Committee labelled Nemtsov a “sacrificial victim” of his own supporters, who want to discredit the Kremlin.
The unfortunate but predictable reactions of Western leaders only support Putin’s spin. Angela Merkel called on President Putin “to ensure that the murder is cleared up and the perpetrators brought to justice.” Barack Obama echoed Merkel in “calling upon the Russian government to conduct a prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his murder and ensure that those responsible for this vicious killing are brought to justice.” Do not Merkel and Obama realize they are conceding Putin’s defense. By declaring Putin’s Kremlin responsible for finding the murderers, they are ruling out the possibility that the Kremlin itself ordered the hit.
Western leaders do not want to recognize what Putin and his regime are capable of. Scholars John Dunlop and Karen Dawisha have chronicled evidence that the FSB, the state internal security service, was behind the 1999 apartment bombings that killed almost 400 Russians and helped bring Putin to power. English justice officials are convinced that the Kremlin ordered the “nuclear poisoning” of defector Alexander Litvinenko in London, and then sheltered his assassin with parliamentary immunity.
Ordering the killing of one irritating opposition figure, like Nemtsov, pales in comparison to this and other acts of murder.
In my own view, there are two possible explanations of Nemtsov’s murder: One is that the murder was ordered by the Kremlin itself to signal a new clamp down on opposition figures. My second explanation would be a rogue element within the Kremlin, perhaps an overzealous oligarch, but an act of violence of this import would be an unlikely move for Putin’s subordinate. I do not know how such things are arranged, but they are done most likely through a wink and a nod with no paper trail.
There will be no justice for Nemtsov. An expert on Russian contract killings explains that they are rarely solved “because of the interwoven nature of criminality and Russian officialdom.” In the best case, some lower-level gangsters will confess and will quickly disappear inside the Russian penal system. They and their families will likely be well paid.
Vladimir Putin describes his state as a power vertical, in which he exercises power from the very top and those below carry out his orders. According to Putin’s own description, nothing of importance can happen without the man atop the vertical. Under this logic, could a contract killing of a major opposition figure happen without the direct responsibility of Putin? Calls by Merkel and Obama for justice are therefore unintended demands that the Kremlin investigate and bring itself to justice. Another case of Alice in Wonderland, and another brave person willing to stand up to injustice dead, with no hope of justice.