Another Russian Reformer Murdered

nemtsov killedBy Peter Galuszka

It was a personal shocker to read of the murder in Moscow of Russian reformer Boris Nemtsov, the latest in a long string of killings related to the tragic fight for change in that country.

Nemtsov was gunned down Friday in a drive-by shooting as he walked across Moskvoretsky Bridge a short distance from the Kremlin and Red Square.

The outspoken 55-year-old former nuclear physicist turned government official was a key figure in the far more hopeful years of the early 1990s when bright young people tried (in vain) to move Russia beyond the kleptocracy of the Communist era.

Nemtsov pushed capitalist reforms by trying to root out corruption. He simplified establishing businesses by taking the registration process out of the hands of crooked bureaucrats. He advocated transparency in bidding contracts. More recently, he revealed billions of dollars in payoffs at the Russian Winter Olympics last year at Sochi.

Naturally, Nemtsov ran afoul of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer who beat out Nemtsov as Boris Yeltsin’s successor. Putin is the spearhead of the old power elite that has seized control over the past 15 years, rolled back democratic reforms, unleashed a torrent of inside business deals, and pushed the worst military conflict in the region (Crimea and Ukraine) since the Cold War.

Nemtsov was due to lead a Moscow protest rally against Putin’s bloody Ukrainian adventurism that has killed 5,800 people. He was to stand in for Alexei Navalny another reformer who has been imprisoned for handing out leaflets at a subway station.

As he was taking a walk on an unusually warm winter evening, a car drove up. Six shots were fired. Nemtsov was killed by four bullets.

He is the fifth person – either Russian or foreign – that I have dealt with personally who has been murdered. I reported from Moscow for BusinessWeek in the 1980s and 1990s.

Here are a few examples: American businessman Paul Tatum involved in a dispute with a Chechen partner was slain by 11 bullets to the head and neck at a subway station that I used to frequent. Paul Klebnikov, an American editor of Russian-language Forbes magazine, was shot near his apartment. Russian investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikin, a friend who got me an assignment to write for Literaturnaya Gazetta, died in an apparent poisoning.

I had interviewed Nemtsov back when he was pushing far-reaching and radical change in the the city of Nizhniy Novgorod, formerly known as Gorky, east of Moscow.

He is the highest-profile reformer to be killed during the regime of Putin who says it was a contract killing and that he will oversee the investigation “personally.”

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11 responses to “Another Russian Reformer Murdered

  1. Europeans march in the streets when French cartoonists are shot down for exercising free speech; where is the outrage in Europe over this?

  2. The Russian kleptocracy operates at least one generation behind the elected kleptocracy in the United States.

    This is how reformers fight the political kleptocracy in Russia:

    “Nemtsov pushed capitalist reforms by trying to root out corruption. He simplified establishing businesses by taking the registration process out of the hands of crooked bureaucrats. He advocated transparency in bidding contracts. More recently, he revealed billions of dollars in payoffs at the Russian Winter Olympics last year at Sochi.”

    More capitalism, less regulation, more transparency and disclosed money flows.

    The Kleptocrats in the United States are more sophisticated. They have used their captive media and an army of useful idiots to push the idea that capitalism is bad, regulations are good, legislation passed before anyone reads it is acceptable and an accurate accounting of the flow of money through government is unnecessary.

    Does anybody really think that the secret rule-making process just completed by the FCC will really make the internet neutral? Who thinks that lifelong crony capitalist Tom Wheeler is really on the side of “the people”?

    This is US kleptocracy at its finest. The useful idiots on the left are busy signing the praises of a 300 page ruling document none of them have read.

    I support net neutrality but I’ll bet good money that’s not what the FCC ruling gives us.

    Here’s what one of the commissioners who opposed the ruling had to say: ” “The order explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes,” he said. “Read my lips: More new taxes are coming. It’s just a matter of when.”

    American kleptocracy at work.

    I am just waiting for the Kleptocrat in Chief to declare, “If you like your internet provider you can keep your internet provider.”


      “Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), reintroduced the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act on Tuesday along with 38 co-sponsors — 28 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

      “The bill, which would also bar multiple or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce, has wide support from industry.

      ‘Our bill, which would permanently ban Internet taxation, would encourage more American innovators and entrepreneurs to use broadband to develop the next big thing, while keeping the Internet open and accessible to consumers across the country,’ Thune said in a statement. ”

      Which is to say nothing of the ITFA already in operation. But I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I say that pro-ISP Republicans on the FCC would cry “Oogity boogity, taxes!” when the ruling went against them.

      “Kleptocrat in Chief”

      Finally, something we agree on, especially the way he authored policy to twist the arms of states to impose untested Common Core standards at the behest of deep-pocketed test and textbook makers.

  3. Groveton,
    I knew when I wrote this I would have the pro-capitalism stuff shoved back in my face although, in Russia’s case, I do believe it.

    In your case, I do not. You are drawing unrealistic parallels.It’s a bit much to compare Putin with Obama.

    Shame on you!

  4. Peter, It must be painful, indeed, to see individuals you personally met and interviewed and saw some hope of reform in hearing them, murdered for their stance.

    A very revealing film of the Russian “common man” viewpoint is well portrayed/depicted in the 1 hour documentary film, God, Tsar and Fatherland.
    Worth a view-sub-titled. (2008)

    For God, Tsar and Fatherland – ITVS
    Russian nationalism percolates in a castle outside Moscow, where Mikhail Morozov — who longs for a return to the glory days of Old Russia — rules …

    Putin’s goal is the re-establishment of the 19th century Russian Empire at its peak- with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose titular head was the Tsar. Putin, the very effective KGBer is now the born-again cross-bearing Christian
    One can suspect where this goes.

    • Thanks for that link. This wintry weather is just the right occasion for taking a look at Russian nationalism today.

      As for born-again politicians . . . well, it’s Sunday, isn’t it?

  5. Easier viewing of the 1 hour film For God, Tsar and Fatherland

    Why Democracy: Russia’s Village of Fools – BBC 4 – YouTube
    Video for god tsar and fatherland▶ 51:31

    Apr 24, 2011 – Uploaded by David Zhvania
    (Alternative Title: For God, Tsar and Fatherland). Part of the “Why Democracy” series. Info: “Mikhail Morozov …

    And while one of the reviews mentions the setting as a “castle outside of Moscow”-Russia had no castles, just monasteries and convents used for fortification or sites of imprisonment of enemies and pesky relatives of the Tsars.

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