Is Putin Dead? Speculation rife in Moscow Thursday March 12 2015

The Internet Thinks Putin Is Dead

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen in public since March 5.

And with little further information to go by — his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said simply that there is“no reason to worry” and “everything is fine” — some have naturally assumed the most drastic possible thing that could have happened is what did happen.

“Putin umer” or “Putin has died,” is now trending on the Russian Internet.

There’s also a website that allows users to ask, “has Putin died?” (the automated response varies with responses like: “No, he’s alive” and “No, that’s not why it stinks in Moscow.”)

And perhaps because people find the very notion rather unlikely, social media users have been trying to imagine what a world without Putin — or a heaven with him — might look like.

It’s likely that he would have a mass funeral just like Vladimir Lenin, but would Putin be presented in his favored bare-chested uniform?

Would the outpouring of grief on state TV channels match the level of emotion shown when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died?

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And who would reach out to him first in heaven? Perhaps his longtime friend and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez?
-Hello, Putin, is that you?
-Yes, and who’s this?
-It’s Chavez. Want to meet up?

But if Putin really were at death’s door, would he really show up for his final meeting on time? (The Russian president is notoriously almost always running late)

Translation: It’s already nearing noon…and still no Putin!

And after all, dying isn’t really in his interests.
-Putin can’t die.
-It’s not profitable.

Really though — is this something to even joke about?

Besides, his press secretary, Peskov, has said despite his disappearance from public view he’s still “holding meetings all the time” and even “breaking hands” along the way.


— Glenn Kates

Moscow (AFP) – Where is President Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin was forced Thursday to insist the Russian leader was in good health as rumours swirled online over his week-long absence from the public eye.

Putin was last seen in public on March 5 when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, ever since he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan this week, Russians have grown increasingly curious about what their usually omnipresent leader is up to.

The 62-year-old nurtures a fit, tough-guy image and rarely takes time off.

“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.

Putin also postponed a meeting to sign an alliance agreement with the leader of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, and did not show up at a meeting of the FSB security agency.

Peskov said the agreement with the rebel region may be signed next week and that Putin’s attendance at the FSB meeting was not planned.

He said Putin was busy with Russia’s economic crisis and has “meetings constantly, but not all meetings are public.”

Asked if Putin’s handshake remains firm, Peskov laughed and said: “It breaks your hand.” However he evaded a question on when Putin would next be seen on television.

“As soon as the sun comes out… and it starts smelling of spring, people start getting delusions,” Peskov told TASS agency.

Adding grist to the rumour mill, the RBK news website claimed that Kremlin footage purporting to show Putin meeting regional governors and women on International Women’s Day last week had in fact been filmed earlier. Peskov denied this.

The last time the popular Russian strongman’s health prompted such speculation at home was when he cancelled a number of foreign trips in 2012 after appearing to have developed a limp, which the Kremlin said was due to a sports injury.

Whispers in Moscow about a leader’s health are nothing new, with Putin’s ailing predecessor Boris Yeltsin and former Soviet supremo Leonid Brezhnev the constant targets of rumours over their health.

“Has Putin died?” asks one website where the question is the only thing appearing on a blank page above a button which users can click to check, yielding responses such as “No” and “Still No”.

Thirty trapped in mine after gas blast in eastern Ukraine

An explosion that left at least one man dead and more than 30 people trapped today in a coal mine in war-torn eastern Ukraine was not caused by shelling, authorities say.

The blast, 3,280 ft underground at the Zasyadkov mine in Donestk – a city under the control of rebels from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) – is close to the conflict’s frontlines.

Rebel and government officials said that 230 men were working in the pit at the time of the explosion. Between 30 and 32 men were trapped, according to reports. One witness reported seeing five bodies.

Workers from other parts of the pit were enlisted to clear rubble. Operations were hampered, however, because one of the three entrances to the mine – the entrance closest to where the blast happened – has been forced closed by artillery shelling during fighting between rebel forces and the Ukrainian army.

The war in the region, now under a ceasefire brokered by European leaders, Moscow and Kiev, has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Separatist authorities blamed the blast on a combustible mixture of methane and air, a common cause of industrial mining accidents.

A mine rescue services representative, Yuliana Bedilo, confirmed that one man had died. Rebel officials say 198 had been evacuated, but the fate of as many as 32 others remains unknown.

One injured miner, Igor Murygin, suffered burns over a fifth of his body and said he had been blown off his feet by the blast.

Speaking to reporters at a hospital in Donetsk, he said: “When I came to, there was dust everywhere. People were groaning.”

He added that the mine had newly installed equipment that appeared to be working normally.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, said in Kiev that rebels had prevented a team of 60 Ukrainian rescue workers from reaching the mine to provide assistance. But leading rebel representative Denis Pushilin denied that Ukrainian authorities had offered any help.

“If we truly need assistance, we will turn to Russia,” Pushilin was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency.

The Times, March 5 2015: Nemtsov was punished for his politics, says daughter


Last updated at 12:01AM, March 5 2015

Detectives investigating the murder of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov six days ago have still not spoken to a single member of his immediate family despite President Putin’s promise that he would do “everything” to solve the crime, his eldest child said yesterday.

In her first interview since her father was shot dead on a bridge in front of the Kremlin on Friday night Zhanna Nemtsov told The Times that she believes his “cruel and barefaced murder” was a punishment for his political ideas. She has no confidence in the official investigation and little hope that the perpetrator will ever be brought to justice.

“I know that many people loved him,” she said. “I loved him more than anyone else in my life.”

Sitting in a café near her small flat in one of the oldest parts of Moscow, an eight-minute walk from the “mountains of flowers” that mark the spot where her father died, she said that his killing had been a complete shock to the whole family.

Even though her father shunned personal security and was sometimes arrested, the worst that she had ever imagined was a long spell in jail. Murder “was the last resort”, she thinks. “They couldn’t imprison him because he was a very honest person… they couldn’t find a reason.”

As a child she was often angry that politics dragged her father away from her, most of all when he became Russia’s deputy prime minister and was tipped as a likely successor to President Yeltsin in 1997.

Now aged 30 and a journalist with the independent business news channel RBC, she still spent as much time as she could with him. They lived five minutes apart and would often meet at each other’s homes, in the street, or in bars. They talked regularly on the phone, on Facebook and on WhatsApp.

She spoke to him for the last time on Friday morning.

The night of the murder her mother was staying with her. They had both gone to bed when the call came. “I heard her crying and yelling. I thought some robbers had entered our apartment.”

Outside it was raining heavily. They went to the murder scene but Nemtsov’s body had already been moved. She has returned every day since.

“It’s a very difficult time for me right now,” she said. “I think that I am strong, like my father but of course, not at all moments. I have no choice because I don’t have my father right now.

“I think it was a politically motivated assassination,” she said. She cannot say who ordered it. “If I blame somebody I should have evidence and I don’t have any evidence. It’s only my feelings but I’m absolutely sure that he has become a victim of his principles and of his deeds. I know that officials have expressed [the idea] that he was not dangerous but why was the leader of the opposition killed if he was not dangerous?”

The investigation has so far yielded no arrests, no murder weapon and, in Ms Nemtsova’s view, no plausible theory for who killed her father, who was at the time of his death the most prominent opposition politician in Russia not behind bars or in self-imposed exile overseas.

“I think that after this cruel and barefaced murder the Russian opposition is beheaded,” she said. Before it “people were frightened. Now they are 100 times more frightened”.

Tens of thousands of Russians turned out for a march through Moscow in Nemtsov’s memory on Sunday and thousands more for his funeral on Tuesday.

Many of them suspected that the assassination was either approved by Mr Putin or carried out independently by state security agents who were confident that he would not hold them to account.

Neither possibility has been examined by the official investigation or by Russian state media which have instead listed as plausible culprits: rival opposition figures, Western intelligence agencies, Islamic extremists, the Ukrainian security services, rogue nationalists on either side of the Ukraine conflict, business associates, or someone from Nemtsov’s famously colourful private life [he left four children by three different women and was with his latest girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, a 23 year old Ukrainian model, when he was killed].

Investigators have searched Nemtsov’s Moscow flat, taking away the laptop on which former colleagues say he was compiling evidence of Russia’s repeatedly denied military involvement in east Ukraine. They have also sealed and searched his office in Yaroslavl, the provincial city where he had plunged back into regional politics.

The Kremlin has portrayed the investigation as urgent and comprehensive.

Within hours of Nemtsov’s death Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, announced that the president had taken the investigation under his “personal control”.

On Saturday the Kremlin website published the text of a telegram of condolence from Mr Putin addressed to “Dina Eidman”, Nemtsov’s elderly mother, who turned 87 on Tuesday, the day of her son’s funeral. It was widely reported around the world.

Yesterday, in his first public remarks on the murder, Mr Putin told Interior Ministry employees, that “the most serious attention must be paid to high-profile crimes, including those with a political motive.” He added: “We must finally rid Russia of the disgrace and tragedy of the kinds of things we recently saw and experienced: I mean the audacious murder of Boris Nemtsov in the very centre of the capital.”

But Ms Nemtsova said that no one from government has spoken to any member of the family, other than the Moscow authorities who helped “a lot” with the funeral plans.

The investigators questioned Ms Duritskaya, who she reached herself by phone on Saturday and found to be in a “psychologically very difficult situation”, but they have contacted no one from Nemtsov’s large family.

“I don’t have any confidence [in the official investigation]” she said. “My mother, grandmother, me and the sister and brother of my father and his children have had no connections [with the enquiry] up to today.”

Her grandmother has not received the president’s telegram either, possibly because, unlike the British government, the Kremlin did not bother to check whether she was still at home in Nizhny Novgorod [she came to Moscow as soon as she heard about the murder] and possibly because her name has not been Dina Eidman for decades.

“Her surname is Nemtsova, not Eidman. It’s a deliberate mistake made by our authorities… I think to underline that she was of Jewish origin. She felt some sorrow that they put a different surname.”

Ms Nemtsova’s goal now is to ensure that her father is remembered as a “great man” and she plans to publish a book of his best FaceBook posts, the main medium of communication left to him after he, like all other Russian opposition leaders, was squeezed off television. The last decade of his life, spent fighting the increasingly authoritarian Putin “regime”, was a “great challenge” but he had retained his indomitable optimism.

Elected to the regional government in Yaroslavl he planned to campaign for the national parliament, the State Duma next year.

Instead she hopes he can realise one final posthumous ambition: a Nobel Prize. He always wanted one for physics, now “I think he deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace more than anyone else because he died a hero.”

The Times March 5 2015: ‘Commander reveals Russia’s Ukraine role’

A Russian tank commander injured in battle has exposed his country’s involvement in Ukraine, amid US claims that the Kremlin has 12,000 troops fighting the Kiev government.

Speaking from a hospital bed in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Dorzhi Batomunkuyev, 20, told a reporter from the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that he had served in a rebel unit that was “90 per cent Russian”.

On February 19, the gunner and his comrades were engaged in combat with Ukrainian army tanks at Debaltseve, a key railway junction captured last week by the Russian-backed separatists.

“I hit an enemy tank, which exploded,” he told the paper. “Got on another tank, but . . . we pulled back to a different location and they shot us up.

“There was a deafening crash. I opened my eyes and could see only fire, a very bright light. I could hear the sound of cordite charges exploding.” The tank’s hatch would not open. He continued: “The only thought I had was that we would all die. I felt my face on fire, headset burning, I put my hand to take off the headset and saw, mixed with leather, skin from my hand.”

Rescued by comrades in an armoured car, Gunner Batomunkuyev was taken to an intensive care unit. Since his interview with the paper last week, he has been moved to a military hospital in Rostov, southern Russia.

Like all Russian regular soldiers fighting in Ukraine, Gunner Batomunkuyev volunteered to be sent there. He had signed up under a three-year contract last June after completing his service as a conscript. Some men refused to go to Ukraine and although he did not know their fate, he suggested they did not face punishment.

It was clear from the beginning last autumn, when preparations began for them to move out from their Siberian base to a collection point in the Rostov region, near Russia’s border with Ukraine, that secrecy was paramount: divisional signs on the battalion’s tanks were painted over, identifying uniform patches and badges removed and paybooks left behind at base.

Units from Siberia and Russia’s far east rolled through the vast country by rail, greeted by cheering locals at villages and towns.

His unit crossed the Ukrainian border under cover of darkness early last month and, after a stopover in Donetsk, began to fight its way to Debaltseve. Although he said that no one in his unit was killed in the fighting, he described men losing limbs and, like him, being burnt in tank battles.

He claims that they avoided contact with Ukrainian civilians and did their best to minimise casualties, although he nearly shot a woman wearing white, mistaking her for a Ukrainian soldier in winter camouflage.

He told the paper he had no regrets and did not blame President Putin, who continues to insist that Russia does not provide military help to the rebels.

“I have nothing against him,” the young soldier said with a laugh. “He is certainly an interesting person and cunning — telling the entire world there are ‘no troops here’.”

Ben Hodges, the US Army Europe commander, said that Russian forces in Ukraine consist of military advisers, weapons operators and combat troops. A further 50,000 are massed on the border, the general claimed. He has urged the White House to arm Kiev.


The Times, Wednesday March 4 2015

Dissidents to publish report on Putin’s role in Ukraine

Dissidents Ilya Yashin, centre, and Mikhail Kasyanov, right, plan to distribute the report
Pavel Golovkin/AP
  • Dissidents Ilya Yashin, centre and Mikhail Kasyanov, right,
    Dissidents Ilya Yashin, centre, and Mikhail Kasyanov, right, plan to distribute the reportPavel Golovkin/AP

Russian opposition activists plan to publish significant elements of a report detailing military involvement in Ukraine that was being prepared by Boris Nemtsov before he was shot dead in Moscow.

Police investigating the opposition leader’s mafia-style killing on a bridge near the Kremlin searched his flat at the weekend and seized a computer believed to have contained the only copy of the report.

Ilya Yashin, another prominent member of the opposition, has toldThe Times that evidence collated by Mr Nemstov — including details obtained from parents of serving Russian soldiers who have died on Ukrainian soil — had been safeguarded, and a version of the report would be published.

Mr Yashin revealed the existence of the report after Mr Nemstov’s funeral, at the Troyekurovskoye cemetery, which was attended by his family, members of the opposition and hundreds of ordinary Russians.

“Nemtsov told me he was going to start work on a report entitledPutin and the War that would prove that Russian forces were present in Ukraine [and] took part in clashes with Ukrainian forces,” he said.

“Nemtsov told me that he was planning a trip to Ivanovo [northwest of Moscow] and that he planned to put the material together within a month in a report that would be distributed in a large number of copies,” he said.

“I have some ideas how to pick up the pieces of his report, but this is not something that can be done in a few days.”

He added that the issue had been complicated by the fact that investigators have seized Nemtsov’s documents, his computer and sealed his flat. “We have no way of getting to those documents, but have ideas about how to resurrect these documents and shall do that as soon as possible so that we can finish the work that was begun.”

Mr Yashin added that although it was too early to say how the opposition would respond to Mr Nemtsov’s death, he hoped that it would serve to unite different factions.

“Competition between different groups within the opposition only leads one way — to jail,” he said.

Reflecting on Mr Nemtsov’s death, Mr Yashin said : “He could have lived a comfortable and easy life. He chose a different path, He has left us as a hero.”

“We came because we feel ashamed of our country, of our people, that we let such a thing happen,” said Dmitry Afanasyev, another mourner . “Putin is to blame. But we are too.”

Vadim Prokhorov, Mr Nemtsov’s lawyer, also said that the politician was preparing to expose Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict. He had turned to police after receiving anonymous death threats on social media, but the authorities had done nothing to investigate them. “Soon I’ll kill you,” read one such message.

Thousands line streets of Moscow in tribute to murdered Boris Nemtsov

Thousands of Russians queued for hours today in the raw Moscow cold to pay their final respects to the murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

They shuffled past long lines of fur-hatted police, through airport-style metal detectors and behind ranks of television news reporters, including those from the pro-Kremlin channels whose vitriolic propaganda many of the mourners blamed for Nemtsov’s death.

Then they filed slowly, one by one, into the hall where the open coffin lay.

Four days after he was shot four times in the back while crossing a bridge below the Kremlin with his girlfriend, Nemtsov’s handsome features looked undisturbed in the white-lined casket .

His silver hair was neatly parted. He wore a white shirt, open at the collar, and a black suit. His fingers gripped a wooden cross. Black and white portraits of Nemtsov decorated the brick walls of the Sakharov Centre, a museum and cultural space commemorating the Soviet-era dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Andrei Sakharov.

Church music played in the background and the perfume of flowers laid by each of the mourners, mostly red carnations, filled the room. His mother, who turned 87 today and had feared that President Putin would have her son killed, listened with other family members to the eulogies. Nemtsov’s ex-wife Yekaterina Odintsova, with a black headscarf pulled over her blonde hair, stood near by.

Mr Putin has condemned the killing and taken personal charge of the investigation according to his spokesman. Opposition figurers have condemned the murder enquiry as a sham because it is not examining the possibility that the state security services were involved.

Russian state television has begun a multi-pronged backlash against suggestions that the Kremlin might be to blame for the crime, blaming western intelligence services, Islamic extremists, Ukrainian nationalists or the Russian opposition instead.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under President Yeltsin, was the most prominent opposition figure to be murdered in Russia during Putin’s 15-year rule.

Mr Putin did not attend the ceremony and will not be at the burial service at a Moscow cemetery this afternoon. Arkady Dvorkovich, a deputy prime minister from the government’s increasingly sidelined liberal camp, represented the Russian authorities.

Representing Britain was John Major, the former prime minister, who was among the first dignitaries to arrive.

Outside light snow began to fall and the short speeches made next to the coffin were broadcast to those still waiting.

“The shots were fired not only at Nemtsov but at all of us, at democracy in Russia,” they heard Gennady Gudkov, another prominent Kremlin critic, say.

“We never thought this could happen, but it did. Rest in peace my friend, your work will be continued.”

Sleek diplomatic cars flying the flags of the United Kingdom, European Union, France, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Romania and Norway filled the road.

By noon, the queue of people wanting to lay flowers at Nemtsov’s coffin snaked all the way back up the hill to the Kursk railway station, almost half a mile away, and was still growing.

“Nemtsov’s death was a case where I couldn’t just look away or cross the road and walk on the other side of the pavement,” said Irina Shebanova, a retired school teacher who came from Tver, 150km (93 miles) north of Moscow, to pay her respects.

Sergei Larin, a small businessman who said he was “only just breathing” after 15 years of President Putin’s repressive rule, described Nemtsov’s killing as the crossing of a new frontier of cruelty and cynicism.

“There has been a long list of killings before,” he said, “but to shoot a former member of the government right by the Kremlin … It’s complete rubbish to say that it was done to discredit Putin. There were clear, direct threats to Nemtsov. From extremists? What extremists? Putin controls and feeds all the extremists in the world, and by the way from our taxpayers’ money.”

Yelena Barkova, 41, an election co-ordinator, said opposition followers had often declared that Russia had reached a “turning point” before, but Nemtsov’s murder was definitely it. “It marks the start of Terror.”

Pavel Volkov, a physicist, said there had been no need for Mr Putin to give any direct order himself to kill Nemtsov because the atmosphere of hatred, whipped up by state propaganda, was enough. “Anger in society is off the scale,” he said. “We are living in a nightmare. I worry most of all for my children and grandchildren.”

Lyudmila and Alla, two pensioners who came together, were too frightened to give their surnames. “This murder shows what the powers that be are capable of,” said Lyudmila. “Citizens should investigate the killing themselves because we cannot believe the investigators.”

“I feel this very bitterly,” said Alla, “the shooting shows that it is deadly dangerous to be in opposition. We live in a concentration camp, ruled by the KGB.”

Pasha, 24, an urban studies analyst with a long hipster beard, said that Nemtsov had seemed out of date to him but that he admired his energy and optimism. “He was the guy from the 90s but still he was cool – he had some passion.”

Ilya Shepelin, a journalist with the independent magazine Bolshoi Gorod, said: “I was a critic of Nemtsov before but his murder united us.” When street demonstrations flared against Mr Putin in 2011-12, partly organised by Nemtsov, there was a belief that Russia could change. Now, with every prominent opposition leader jailed, in exile or dead, “people don’t know what to do … people have no hope”.

Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite turned opposition figure and journalist, tweeted that she had received a grim message after viewing the body. A man had walked up to her and said: “Bear in mind, you’re next Ksenia.”

The Times March 3 2015


Nemtsov’s girlfriend is freed but will not attend funeral


The girlfriend of Boris Nemtsov spoke publicly for the first time yesterday about the moment the opposition leader was shot dead as they crossed a bridge together near the Kremlin.

Anna Duritskaya, a Ukrainian model who had been with the former deputy prime minister and critic of President Putin for 2½ years, said that she never saw the killer and expressed dismay that the Russian authorities were refusing to let her go home to Kiev.

Speaking in a faltering voice drained of emotion, she told the online independent news channel Dozhd that she had noticed nothing suspicious over dinner in a restaurant overlooking Red Square late on Friday, or as they strolled downhill to the river, towards Mr Nemtsov’s home.

Then “on the bridge the murder happened”.

“I don’t want to answer questions about what happened on the bridge. I don’t want to talk about this,” she said. “I am in a very difficult psychological condition and I cannot talk about this any more now. I feel bad… I saw no one. I don’t know where he came from, [the killer] was behind my back.

“I turned around and all I saw was a light-coloured car. I saw neither the brand nor the licence plate of the car when it was driving away.”

Mr Nemtsov, 55, died almost instantly. Ms Duritskaya, who is more than 30 years younger than her partner, was taken away by police and interrogated without a lawyer.

“They questioned me until morning. I don’t remember where,” she said. “Some time later, several hours into the questioning, I asked to call a lawyer and the Ukrainian embassy consul.”

She said that she had given all the evidence she could yet was still kept under constant guard for several days.

However, a few hours after the interview appeared, Ms Duritskaya was allowed to leave Moscow and fly home to Ukraine. She will be a notable absentee at Mr Nemtsov’s funeral today, in common with Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader, and Bogdan Borusewicz, the leader of the Polish Senate, who said last night that he had been denied entry to Russia.

Another mourner, the Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete, was spending the night at a Moscow airport after immigration officials refused to let her into the country. Ms Kalniete, a former foreign minister, said she would fly back to Brussels today.

The British government will be represented at the funeral by the former prime minister Sir John Major.

There were conflicting reports yesterday as to whether the closed-circuit television cameras covering the site of the killing were working at the time of the attack. The business newspaper Kommersant, citing an anonymous interior ministry source, said that they were not, although the Moscow city authorities later said that the cameras were working and that there were others operated by federal security.

The newspaper said that investigators were sure that “the killers were not professionals”, that they used old ammunition and possibly an unreliable home-made weapon of the type used in 2006 to kill Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and critic of the Kremlin.

The website Life News, which has close links to the security services, reported that the murderer was about 1.7m (5ft 7in) with short dark hair, wearing blue jeans and a brown sweater.

Late on Sunday, after tens of thousands of Russian protesters had shuffled through the drizzle to the spot where Mr Nemtsov was murdered, an unusual guest was invited on to Russian state television’s most popular weekly news and current affairs show.

Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, another critic of Mr Putin who was poisoned with polonium 210 in London in 2006, said that Mr Nemtsov’s murder was a carefully planned “provocation” organised by MI6 and other Western intelligence services.

Mr Lugovoi, a former KGB officer, is now a member of the State Duma, where he represents the ultra-nationalist LDPR. He told Russian TV that he was “convinced that preparations for killing Nemtsov began at least a year ago as part of a strategic plan [aiming for a] strategic outcome in Russia linked to Ukraine”.

“This may not be the end, but the beginning of provocations,” he warned viewers. “It is all part of a geopolitical game of western intelligence services.”

No explanation was given for Mr Lugovoi’s presence on the show and there was no mention of evidence allegedly linking him to Mr Litvinenko’s death. His place was later taken in the 145-minute-long panel discussion programme by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the LDPR, who recently suggested attacking Kiev with napalm.

Many leading figures from the Moscow intelligentsia had refused to appear on Sunday’s show. “Close friends and associates who knew Boris Nemtsov well were being called all day Saturday by researchers from the show, but none of them agreed to go on it,” a source told The Times, adding that they considered the programme a propaganda mouthpiece for Kremlin-approved views.

In Geneva yesterday Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, promised that the murder would be “fully investigated”, although he added that any “attempt to use the heinous killing of Boris Nemtsov for political purposes is despicable”.

The Times leader Monday March 2 2015

Mob Rule

Boris Nemtsov’s fearless investigation of corruption may have doomed him


In Stalin’s day, prominent enemies of the state were at least granted a show trial. In Putin’s they are gunned down in the street. The murder last Friday night of Boris Nemtsov may never be solved but it confirms with sickening finality that propaganda has taken hold in Russia in the 21st century much as it did in the 20th. It dictates that critics of the regime are traitors, that traitors deserve to die and that no one is exempt. Garry Kasparov, the chess master and surviving dissident, summarised the meaning of the murder with typical concision: “The message is this: we have no allergy to blood and anyone can be killed”.

Mr Nemtsov seized the opportunities of perestroika to build a career in politics that he hoped would lead to power. Instead, it condemned him in the end to heroic internal exile as a persecuted dissident. Yesterday tens of thousands of Muscovites gathered near the pavement where he fell to honour him, but the truth is that many more barely knew his name.

“Who is Nemtsov anyway?” young people asked reporters covering the rally. Their ignorance is testament to the power and self-censorship of state-controlled media in the age of Putin, but their question deserves an answer. He was a physics PhD who was too charismatic to be content with academia. As a protégé of Boris Yeltsin he was made governor of the Nizhni-Novgorod region and, later, deputy prime minister of Russia. As a thorn in Mr Putin’s side he protested not only against the war in Ukraine but also, and perhaps crucially, against corruption.

Mr Nemtsov’s fearless condemnation of Mr Putin’s Ukrainian strategy has inevitably dominated discussion of his death. Hours before being shot four times at close range in the back he had called the war “mad, aggressive and deadly” in a radio interview, and he was preparing a dossier that he promised would lay bare Mr Putin’s personal involvement in the conflict. Yet it is hard to overstate the anger he caused in the Kremlin 18 months earlier with a detailed and fearless analysis of how the Sochi winter Olympics became the most expensive games in history.

The cronyism behind the Sochi games was an open secret by the time they opened a year ago, but it was Mr Nemtsov who put names and numbers to the rumours. He commissioned a report that estimated that $26 billion of the $50 billion budget went on embezzlement and kickbacks, and he named two childhood friends of Mr Putin’s, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, as controllers of companies that received contracts worth nearly $7 billion. Mr Nemtsov was safe as long as Mr Putin was harvesting what goodwill he could from the Sochi games, but in the long run, in the violent kleptocracy that Russia has become, there is nothing more dangerous than following the money.

Yesterday John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, demanded a “thorough, transparent, real investigation”. He shouldn’t hold his breath. There has been nothing remotely transparent about the official investigations into the deaths of such brave Kremlin critics as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and the opposition Duma member Yuri Shchekochikhin.

Mr Putin has suggested that the Nemtsov murder was a “provocation”. This is the insulting reflex of a man who seems incapable of remorse and who has turned Russia into a gangster state. It will not change until he goes.

Who could lead opposition to Putin now?

from The Guardian today

 Russia’s opposition: who is left to take on Vladimir Putin?

Three years ago there were several intelligent, charismatic leaders railing against the Kremlin, but prison, exile and death has thinned the dissenting herd

Protesters burn a portrait of Vladimir Putin at a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov, in Mariupol, Ukraine.
 Protesters burn a portrait of Vladimir Putin at a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov, in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Vaganov/EPA

With the murder of Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s beleaguered liberal opposition has lost one of its last audible voices. There was a brief period, after parliamentary elections in late 2011, when street dissent seemed on the rise, and large rallies gripped Moscow.

The optimism dissipated however, after Putin won another resounding victory in the March 2012 presidential elections. The day before his inauguration, a huge protest turned violent. In a sign that any radicalisation would not be tolerated, a number of protesters were put on trial, often for extremely minor offences, and threatened with years in jail.

Since then, the opposition’s mood has been on the wane, with urban liberals either making plans to leave Russia or simply getting on with life, feeling they have more to lose than to gain by protesting.

Russia’s parliament is dominated by the pro-Putin United Russia party but also has three parties nominally in opposition: Just Russia, the Liberal Democrats and the Communists. While these parties are given airtime on television and – especially in the case of the Communists – have a genuine electorate, they are best described as “systemic opposition”, managed by the Kremlin.

Among the “non-systemic” opposition, there are few politicians who have much of a national profile, with the restrictions of state television meaning it is hard to gain a real platform. Harassment, threats and fatigue have led many into either jail or exile. Now that Nemtsov has been silenced, here are a list of the main opposition figureheads.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Khodorkovsky: limited influence from Zurich.

 Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Once Russia’s richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003, on charges widely believed to be politically motivated after he began financing political parties. He spent a decade in jail but was released in December 2013 after Putin granted him amnesty.

Khodorkovsky was immediately flown to Berlin and now lives in Zurich. In December, he told the Guardian hebelieves he will be arrested if he returns to Russia.

He has set up the Open Russia Foundation and said he is prepared to go “all the way” to change the regime in Russia. However, although Khodorkovsky may have impressed some with his stoical handling of a decade in prison, most Russians have little regard for those who made billions in the 1990s, and it is also unclear how much he can influence politics from outside the country.

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov playing the computer Deep Blue Junior in New York, 2003. AP Photo/Stuart Ramson)

The former world chess champion became a fierce critic of Putin and was a frequent fixture at opposition events for many years, often being detained by police. In 2013, he announced at a press conference in Geneva that he had decided not to return to Russia, as after criminal charges were brought against Navalny and other opposition activists, he could be next.

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny seen after a court hearing into his appeal against a15-day jail sentence, in Moscow.

 Alexei Navalny’s strident nationalistic views perturb some opposition supporters.Photograph: Novoderezhkin Anton/Itar-tass/Corbis

A blogger and lawyer who gained a huge following for his investigations into corruption among Putin’s elite, Navalny came to prominence during the wave of street protests in Moscow at the end of 2011, and was widely seen as the brightest hope for the opposition.

Some are disturbed by his Russian nationalist views while others point out that they could help him gain broader support among Russians who would not normally support the opposition.

Since he came to prominence, Navalny has had to deal with a wave of bureaucratic and legal hassles, including two major court cases. At the end of last year, Navalny was given a suspended sentence in a fraud trial, but his brother was sentenced to 3and-a-half years in prison.

Navalny says authorities have effectively taken his brother hostage in an attempt to stop him working but he has vowed to continue. He was not at Sunday’s march in Moscow, having been jailed for 15 days when handing out leaflets advertising the event – back when it was still an “anti-crisis rally” and not a memorial for Nemtsov.

Igor Strelkov

Igor Strelkov, the top military commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, a a press conference in July 2014.

 Igor Strelkov, the top military commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a a press conference in July 2014. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

It has been suggested for a long time that the serious popular threat to Putin comes not from liberals but from nationalists, and these forces have been newly invigorated by the war in east Ukraine. Indeed, one theory is that rogue nationalist groups could be behind the killing of Nemtsov.

Strelkov, a fan of military re-enactments, fought for Russia in Chechnya and more recently helped coordinate the pro-Russian rebel movement in eastern Ukraine. Called back to Moscow after apparently going rogue, he has said he believes Russia will soon be engulfed by war.

“His analysis is simple,” said Alexander Borodai, another Russian leader of the Donbass rebels. “There is a crisis in the country, the government will fall soon, and in the inevitable civil war, Igor Strelkov will head patriotic forces and become the dictator of what is left of Russia.”

The scenario seems unlikely but there is no doubt that serious thought is being given as to whether the promotion of Russian nationalism in the armed conflict in Ukraine might have let a genie out of the bottle.

Sergei Udaltsov

Sergei Udaltsov uses a megaphone during a Moscow rally in 2012.

 Sergei Udaltsov uses a megaphone during a Moscow rally in 2012. Photograph: Sergei Chirikov/EPA

A familiar face at opposition protests for years, 38-year-old Udaltsov is a hardcore radical leftist, who has been detained on numerous occasions at rallies. He was charged as part of the “mass disturbances” case over a May 2012 rally that turned violent, and was sentenced to 4 and-a-half years in prison. From jail, he has said that liberals and leftists must go separate ways now, due to their different positions on the conflict in Ukraine, and while he still opposes Putin, he calls for a new union of far-left forces.

RIP Boris Nemtsov, Putin critic and energetic fighter for a better Russia

Still in shock, though joining the thousands of ordinary, free thinking Russians who paid tribute to Nemtsov today in Moscow at the memorial march, helps….

Various interesting pieces in the English language press:

This from the Sunday Times, a comment by Ed Lucas, who was once a Moscow correspondent for The Economist:


My friend charted the looting of a nation; his death is a warning to all Russians

Edward Lucas Published: 1 March 2015


BRAVERY, charm, humour and honesty are admirable qualities. But in Vladimir Putin’s Russia they mean political oblivion and — in the case of Boris Nemtsov — death.

Nemtsov was my closest friend in Russian politics. I had known him since the late 1990s when he was trying vainly to stem the sleaze and authoritarianism that eventually brought Putin and his ex-KGB cronies to power.

Unlike some Russian liberals, Nemtsov saw through Putin from the beginning. He disliked the new leader’s background as an unrepentant KGB officer, and worried about his murky years spent in the city administration of gangster-ridden St Petersburg.

He decried the political bargain that the new regime offered as sinister and misleading: Russians craved stability but it should not come at the price of ending political pluralism.

As the regime tightened its grip on the electoral system, Nemtsov and other liberals were excluded from public life. He turned to protests and to investigating corruption and incompetence.

Together with Vladimir Milov, a former energy minister, Boris produced a series of devastating reports showing how the country’s natural-resource riches — oil, gas, minerals — were being stolen and squandered.

Russia’s dismal network of paved roads, he showed in a 2008 publication called “Putin — the results”, had shrunk since the Boris Yeltsin era, while huge sums disappeared into the pockets of contractors and politicians.

Getting the message of waste and sleaze across was a hard slog — he had no access to the mainstream television channels that shape public opinion in Russia. Undaunted, he turned to the Russian-language services of foreign broadcasters, and to the remaining fragments of the independent media at home.

He travelled the western security conference circuit, urging policy wonks, spooks, politicians and officials to pay more attention to the direction of events in Russia. If truth could be told, he believed, the Putin regime would surely crumble.

The last time I saw him he had an urgent request: could I put him in touch with Swiss financial intelligence? He was investigating another money trail — as I recall involving corrupt construction contracts surrounding the Sochi Olympics — and he was incensed by the role that western bankers, lawyers and accountants were playing in facilitating the looting of Russia.

As an ardent westerniser, who believed Russia’s ultimate destiny was as a modern European country rooted in liberty and legality, he was horrified by the way that supposedly respectable western countries and companies collaborated with the Putin regime.

For all his bravery, he was a fading star in a declining part of the political spectrum. The state propaganda machine has demonised the opposition — equating it with the chaos, humiliation and corruption of the Yeltsin years. In this paranoid and hysterical world, liberal politicians’ ties with the West are tantamount to treason.

Nemtsov was unrepentant about those ties, just as he was forthright in his condemnation of the war in Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea. Both causes are highly popular in Russia where they are portrayed as crusades against historical injustice, resurgent fascism and western interference.

Doubtless many thousands will rally today to mark his death. But the real message of the murder will be to cow Russians, not drive them to greater resistance to the regime. Just as the murder in 2006 of Anna Politkovskaya, the campaigning journalist, chilled the hearts of my media colleagues in Moscow, and the poisoning in London of Alexander Litvinenko, also in 2006, showed that fleeing abroad offered no safety, the killing of Nemtsov shows that fame is no protection, even for someone who was in truth only a marginal threat.

The way the regime deals with these murders adds an extra degree of horror. Take the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a tax lawyer who uncovered a £150m fraud by corrupt officials against the Russian state. He was arrested for pursuing the investigation, kept in abominable conditions until he became agonisingly ill — and then beaten to death. Those involved have been promoted, not punished, and Magnitsky himself has, in a grotesque twist, been prosecuted posthumously.

So the announcement that Putin will take “personal charge” of the Nemtsov investigation adds a macabre note of insult to his tragedy. If the regime was as shocked as it claims to be, it would ask international investigators to take part. The news that officials began their investigation by ransacking Nemtsov’s home gives an idea of what nonsense awaits his friends and family.

The Kremlin propaganda machine is already spinning a different story of the killing on social media. Far from being a hit by the regime or its hangers on, they argue, the culprit is the West because the murder will make the Russian authorities look bad — and the clear beneficiaries must surely be the opposition and their foreign paymasters. This is the same twisted thinking that claims that the Ukrainians (or perhaps the CIA) shot down the MH17 airliner over Ukraine last year.

Sadly the murder does not make the regime look bad (it looked bad already). It makes it look even more ruthless.

The Putin regime uses force against opponents, whether by murdering, beating or abducting them as individuals, or invading them as countries. It dresses up its actions in phoney legalism, and surrounds them with a blizzard of blustering, mendacious propaganda.

It uses its grip on power as a means to colossal self-enrichment, and it uses that wealth to bribe and subvert the West. This is bad for Russia and a grave threat to us. Nemtsov explained this all, with wit, insight and courage.

We did not listen. Now he is dead. What will we do?

Edward Lucas is the author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Threat to Russia and the West, and Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West

And this by current Sunday Times Moscow correspondent, Mark Franchetti:

Slain Putin critic was to reveal war secrets

Boris Nemtsov was poised to embarrass the Kremlin by exposing its role in Ukraine, says Mark Franchetti in Moscow

Mark Franchetti Published: 1 March 2015

Boris Nemtsov at a demonstration in Moscow in 2011Boris Nemtsov at a demonstration in Moscow in 2011 (Kirill Kudryavtsev)

BORIS NEMTSOV, the Russian opposition leader shot dead as he walked near the Kremlin, revealed in one of his last interviews his 86-year-old mother had begged him to stop criticising President Vladimir Putin for fear he would be killed.

Thousands of Muscovites laid flowers and lit candles yesterday on a bridge near Red Square on which Nemtsov, 55, was gunned down on Friday night after he walked home after dinner with Anna Duritskaya, 23, his Ukrainian model girlfriend.

Nemtsov collapsed in a pool of blood after he was hit in the back by four of seven bullets fired from a white Lada. The car, which had number plates from the volatile Ingushetia region of the north Caucasus, was later found. Its owner claimed it had been stolen.

Television reports show the car from which the shots were firedTelevision reports show the car from which the shots were fired

Hours after the mafia-style hit — which drew international condemnation and plunged Russia’s beleaguered opposition into deep shock — it emerged Nemtsov had received numerous death threats over his criticism of the Kremlin’s covert war in Ukraine.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, angered opposition politicians by claiming the killing looked like a “provocation” meant to discredit the president. Official media speculated it might have been due to a financial dispute or, somewhat implausibly, to Islamic fundamentalists.

In an interview with a Russian magazine last month. Nemtsov said: “Every time I call my mother she asks me, ‘When are you going to stop bashing Putin, he’s going to have you killed’. She honestly fears I could get whacked in the very near future.”

Asked whether he shared his mother’s concerns, Nemtsov replied: “Yes I do, a little . . . but if I was very scared of Putin, I would not do what I do.” Vadim Prokhorov, the politician’s lawyer, said Nemtsov, who was preparing a report exposing the Kremlin’s covert military involvement in Ukraine, had turned to police after receiving anonymous death threats on social media, but authorities had done nothing to investigate them. “Soon I’ll kill you,” read one.

“It began a few months ago,” said Prokhorov. “I have no doubts whatsoever that his murder is connected to his political activity. He had no business interests and no problems in his private life.”

Nemtsov’s girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, who was walking with him when he was killedNemtsov’s girlfriend Anna Duritskaya, who was walking with him when he was killed

During an interview four hours before his murder with Echo Moscow, an opposition radio station, Nemtsov asked Alexi Nemtsov, its editor-in -chief: “Aren’t you scared that they will kill you for allowing me on air?”

Nemtsov’s killing came ahead of an opposition protest at the war in Ukraine that he had been due to lead today. The march had been initiated by Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure.

After he was jailed for two weeks for handing out leaflets promoting the event, Nemtsov became its main organiser.

“He [Nemtsov] came to see me in jail two days ago,” wrote Navalny. “He was his usual self, full of energy, love of life and plans. He charmed the prison guards and explained to them why they should support the protest march. It’s a terrible tragedy and loss for everyone.”

The demonstration has now been postponed. The opposition plans instead to hold a march in memory of the murdered politician.

Nemtsov, a dashing figure known for his good humour, larger-than-life character and love of glamorous women, had been scathing of Putin’s seizure of Crimea a year ago and subsequent attempts to destabilise eastern Ukraine.

Ilya Yashin, a fellow opposition member, said Nemtsov intended his report, entitled Putin and War, to provide proof the Russian military had been meddling in the conflict.

“He said he had documents proving this involvement,” Yashin said. “He was sorting through them and was planning on making them public in his report in a month.”

Duritskaya, who escaped unscathed from the attack, was being questioned by the police for any light she could shed on her boyfriend’s murder.

The Russian government denied any involvement in the killing, and Putin vowed to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.

In a telegram to Nemtsov’s mother, he said: “We will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this vile and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished.”

Mourners in Moscow lay flowers at the site of the killing Mourners in Moscow lay flowers at the site of the killing

Opposition figures were not convinced; even if the Kremlin did not have a direct hand in the killing, it was to blame for creating a feverish nationalist atmosphere in which those who challenged the official line became targets, they said.

“People who disagree with the Kremlin are threatened,” said Vladimir Ryzhkov, an opposition leader.

“If you fan hatred towards the opposition, vilifying it as a fifth column, you create an atmosphere which provokes political killings. Responsibility for this lies directly with Putin. Anyone with a different political view cannot feel safe in Russia today,” he added.



And this from The Observer:

The Observer view on the death of Boris Nemtsov

Nemtsov’s murder robs Russia of an original, bold and distinctive critical voice
Boris Nemtsov
 Boris Nemtsov during an opposition rally in Moscow. Photograph: Misha Japaridze/AP

Hours before he was shot dead late on Friday night, just outside the Kremlin, Boris Nemtsov gave a radio interview. He was in good spirits. The radio station Echo of Moscow had invited him to talk about the latest opposition march he’d organised, due to take place today.

True, the authorities had predictably banished the protesters to Maryino, a grim suburb of Soviet-era high rises in the distant south-east. Nemtsov knew full well that the rally would never make it on to the night-time news, even if thousands turned up. He pointed out wryly that he hadn’t been allowed to appear on Russian state TV for eight years.

Still, the rally was important and necessary, he said. It was an opportunity for Muscovites to show their opposition to Vladimir Putin. The march – dubbed “Spring” – was in part a protest against the Kremlin’s mismanagement of the economy and its “dead-end” domestic politics, he said. It was an “anti-crisis” event.

Nemtsov said the current model, of giant state corporations run by incompetent bureaucrats, had failed. He wanted decentralisation. Some of the cash currently gobbled up by a greedy Moscow should be spread to the provinces. The government should spend less on war and more on healthcare. Much of Russiawas in a state of crumbling decay.

Nemtsov, however, was most outspoken over Putin’s secret war in Ukraine. Crimea may have wanted to join Russia, he said, but the way the peninsula was annexed last year – with masked armed goons swarming over its parliament building – violated international law. There were no proper observers, he added.

It was in the 1990s that Nemtsov first came to prominence as the governor of Nizhny Novgorod. A reformist, a liberal, and a supporter of Boris Yeltsin, he rose to become deputy prime minister. It was during this era, Nemtsov said on Friday, that Moscow had guaranteed its neighbour’s territorial integrity. In return, Ukraine had renounced nuclear weapons.


Nemtsov added that he had “documentary” proof that undercover Russian soldiers were fighting and dying in eastern Ukraine. It was this assertion – borne out by a steady flow of coffins returning in the dead of night from the war zone in Donetsk and Luhansk – that may have cost him his life. Nemtsov had written numerous pamphlets: singular pieces of truth-telling in a country mired in official lies. One of them, “Putin: A Reckoning” accused Russia’s president and his circle of massive personal corruption.

According to his friend Ilya Yashin, Nemtsov was working on another explosive essay which would expose the role played by the regular Russian army in rebel-held Donbas. Last Saturday, police reportedly seized Nemtsov’s computer hard drives. Sitting in the Echo of Moscow studio – charming as ever, checking his mobile phone during the ad breaks – he said that he would tell the truth, in contrast, he said, to Russia’s president, whom he dubbed a “pathological liar”.

It is an open question whether Nemstov’s appalling murder was carried out by the state, or by shadowy nationalist forces connected to it. We will probably never know. Kremlin-controlled channels have already come up with numerous conspiracy theories. These are part of a cynical post-modern media strategy, perfected by Kremlin political technologists. Its goal is to confuse what’s true with what’s not, to the point that the truth vanishes. What it undeniable is that over the past year Putin has created an atmosphere of hysteria and hatred, driven by relentless imperial propaganda. State TV has portrayed the few brave liberals who have spoken out against the Kremlin’s Ukraine war as American spies and fifth columnists. In his last interview, Nemtsov explained that he was a Russian patriot – but one who viewed the Russian flag as a “symbol of freedom” from Soviet tyranny.

Today, tens of thousands of mourners will gather at the spot where Nemtsov was gunned down. He was shot within touching distance of the Kremlin and the fantastical domes of St Basil’s cathedral. For once, the authorities have granted the opposition permission to rally. His killers appear to have picked the location deliberately. The visual image – an opponent of Putin lying dead in the street, under the impersonal ochre walls of Russian power – tells its own chilling story.

Over the past decade Nemtsov had practically vanished from public life, as Putin squeezed out opposition parties. But he kept going. He was one of the last opposition politicians still genuinely active in Moscow. Some, like the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in a Siberian prison, are in exile. Others, such as the anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny are behind bars. (Navalny, already under house arrest, was due to take part in today’s rally. He was preemptively detained.)

Nemtsov’s murder robs Russia of an original, bold and distinctive critical voice, at a moment when Russia is morphing from semi-authoritarian state into classical dictatorship. It is an appalling act. Increasingly, the Putin regime seems reliant on mobster methods: shootings, assassinations, and hostage-taking, underpinned by a system of total corruption. Another key demand of today’s planned rally was the release of political prisoners.

There is little prospect that Nemtsov’s killers will ever be caught. The killers of other Kremlin critics who have mysteriously wound up dead are still at large. In London, a public inquiry is hearing evidence of how two Moscow assassins poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium. It took three trips to Britain, and two attempts, to finish the job. The two alleged murderers, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, sit safely in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov has described Nemtsov as scarcely more prominent than the average citizen. This belittling rhetoric is reminiscent of Putin’s comments on the human rights activist Anna Politkovskayaafter she was shot dead in 2006. The president’s statement that he will take the Nemtsov murder investigation under his personal control does not inspire confidence.

What, if anything, should the west do? Western sanctions over Ukraine have been largely ineffective. So far, however, the EU and US have been reluctant to impose personal sanctions and asset freezes on super-wealthy members of the Russian elite. Now is the moment to start. The list of Kremlin officials and their families banned from Europe should be widened.

In the meantime we should remember Boris Nemtsov, a brave and principled politician, who spoke truth to power and paid the ultimate price.