Putin’s enemies within

This piece, by Ben Neal, was originally published on the British socialist website, Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century.

At least 50,000 people marched in Moscow last Sunday in memory of the slain liberal opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead two days previously on a bridge just steps away from the Kremlin. The assassin is currently unknown.

The march replaced the planned “anti-crisis” opposition march, which was due to take place on the same day but in an out of the way suburb of Moscow.  That demonstration was to have been overtly political, even raising social demands which had previously been absent from the liberal dominated opposition movement. However, the resulting march was largely shorn of any political content, save that of mourning the loss of a popular yet controversial politician. Organisers explicitly requested that attendees refrain from carrying political banners and flags, aside from the Russian state flag, and also asked people not to shout slogans. The demonstration took place right in the centre of Moscow, and passed the spot near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was shot.

Nevertheless, there were small groups of socialists, anarchists and others who ignored that request, and provided a lively contrast to the otherwise subdued and quiet mood of the march. They included a contingent from Open Left, a website connected to the Russian Socialist Movement, shouting slogans such as “No to terror! No to War!”, “The main enemy sits in the Kremlin!”, “Freedom, equality, fraternity!” and “Freedom to political prisoners!” Apart from being asked to be silent as they passed the spot of Nemtsov’s murder, they encountered no negative reactions, and many people in the vicinity joined in and even suggested slogans of their own. The group also distributed leaflets summarising their position on the killing.

Also present was a contingent of people calling for the release of Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who many say was abducted by separatists in Luhansk Oblast. She is now facing trial in Moscow for alleged involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists. It is widely believed that she is innocent and that Russian authorities have no right to hold her as she was on Ukrainian territory at the time of her abduction; the authorities maintain she was arrested on Russian soil after entering the country posing as a refugee.

Nemtsov’s murder is currently under investigation, and a variety of theories are already circulating as to who was responsible, some more outlandish than others. What is clear is that it was a very well planned and professionally executed hit, and brazenly carried out in the immediate vicinity of the Kremlin, an area under some of the tightest security in Russia, watched 24 hours a day by guards and security cameras, where the slightest unsanctioned protest is stopped within minutes, and on a well-lit bridge crossing the Moscow river. Nemtsov had been with his girlfriend on his way home to his apartment on the south side of the river, an area of dark narrow side streets much more suited to someone wanting to carry out an assassination and get away with it. Whatever the truth behind this case, many of the people on the march were sure that it had something to do with the Kremlin or the security services, even if only a rogue faction of them. Meanwhile the authorities, while being careful to keep all options in the investigation open, are dropping heavy hints that a foreign security service, could be behind it – the Ukrainians perhaps?

 Read more of this article at RS21