Ludmila Alekseeva and Lev Ponomarev on Boris Nemtsov: What he was like and why he was killed (

posted 4 Mar 2015, 13:42 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Mar 2015, 13:56 ]
28 February 2015

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Original: Snob magazine

Ludmila Alekseeva, human rights defender, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group: 

After the last wave of notorious political killings in Russia, things had been relatively quiet, but now it's happened again. I don't know if this means the start of a new wave – I'm not in a position to predict that. But there's no doubt that it was a political killing. This sort of murder is completely unthinkable in a normal country. Judging by the sort of things which happen here, our country is very cruel. I knew Boris for many years and always had great respect for him. He was a successful governor [of Nizhny Novgorod region], and Yeltsin wanted him to be his successor. But when his life turned out differently, Nemtsov stayed true to his convictions – he didn't turn his back on them in order to keep a top position. I think this is an overtly political killing. It's a great shock. 

Lev Ponomarev, human rights defender, director of the Movement for Human Rights and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group:

All Boris's public life took place before my eyes. Becoming a highly-placed official did not corrupt him. He was a rare example of someone able to manage not to get bogged down in the bureaucratic machine, even though he could have. He was able to take on that role without losing himself. But Boris was the sort of person who people call a "hero". Of course, he had his flaws, just like everyone else. Unarguably, he was top of the list for being killed - the shot reached its intended target. Boris was the most vehement opponent of Putin, he was always criticising him personally and publically. In a sense, he was playing with fire.

In Russia, opposition leaders get killed from time to time, and often those killed are younger than me. They're people who put their heads above the parapet. Maybe yesterday's event is the start of a political reign of terror in Russia. Or maybe there will simply continue to be targeted murders, no one knows. It's not very likely that the person who did it will be found. In this country an atmosphere of hate has been created, and this is what is pushing many, many people to commit crimes. 

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts