Killing Nemtsov: Predicted by Putin, Carried Out by the Motherland

Editor's note: This article is part two of a series.  Part one is here.

In his book America on Six Rubles a Day, Yakov Smirnoff wrote that in Soviet Russia, they didn't report plane crashes.  They would instead build an airfield around the crash site and announce that the plane landed ahead of schedule.  A more subtle approach is to make one doubt his own judgment with a rapid succession of simultaneous contradictory narratives, even if they merely project the Kremlin's own methods.

Appearing as equal dots on the public radar, all these nonsensical chaff theories begin to compete for equal space and attention with the objective reality.  For as long as the mystery continues, manufactured absurdities will be debated on equal terms with facts, trivializing the crime, dishonoring the victim, eroding the public trust, and minimizing the moral and emotional impact.

Additionally, since finding that the truth is a zero-sum game, every new deliberate nonsense diminishes the probability and legitimacy of the one and only theory that with any luck will be proven true.  With enough strategically directed chaff, the public will begin to connect the dots into a preordained scheme, discerning subjective phantom images that with time will solidify into the objective political reality verifiable by public opinion surveys.

According to sociologists of the Levada Center, Russia's public opinion is shaped largely by the government-run media, with more than one half of the respondents admitting they couldn't form opinions independently.  Thus, what the surveys are actually measuring is the effectiveness of the government propaganda, since the only visible reality in today's Russia is what's being projected from government-controlled TV screens, to which the nation is perilously addicted.  In yet another survey, 86% of Russians get their news from television (as opposed to 52% in the U.S.).  Compare this to Vladimir Putin's most recent 86% approval rating, and the picture doesn't get any clearer.

In contrast, and for the same reason, Boris Nemtsov's most recent rating was about 1%.  The more Putin tightened his control of the media, the less air time Nemtsov was getting, until TV producers stopped inviting him at all.  Judging by his earlier TV appearances, Nemtsov was an excellent debater.  He was witty, photogenic, quick on his feet, and capable of out-debating a roomful of opponents.  That alone was enough to make him a persona non grata: the pro-Putin crowd would rather debate a less threatening, tongue-tied rube closer to their level.

If he was still mentioned on TV, it was usually with negative connotation.  Nemtsov's uncompromising stand on transparency and limiting government powers earned him a similar media treatment to what the Tea Party is getting at America's major networks.  It came to a point that after his death, TV producers couldn't find any recent footage of him on any of their shows prior to the 1990s.  There was, however, plenty of recent footage of him getting arrested at opposition rallies.

In a country where 86% of the population get their news from TV and about as many trust what they see, that is a political death sentence.  Putin's advocates are now using Nemtsov's alleged lack of popularity as evidence that Putin had no motive to kill: why risk a scandal over some marginal loudmouth who could never become his rival?

The problem with that argument is that Putin doesn't reside in the same parallel universe that the loyal TV producers have constructed on his behalf for the masses.  He lives in the real world of hard facts, and in that real world, Nemtsov had inflicted more damage than any other opponent by publishing well-documented reports about government corruption and graft on the highest levels, including the president himself.  A former deputy prime minister, Nemtsov still had his sources and knew where to look.

Nemtsov's friend and opposition activist, Ilya Yashin, has made it known that when Nemtsov's apartment was searched as part of the murder investigation, the FSB confiscated his computer.  The hard disk contained an unfinished report exposing Russia's direct involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, including the movement of troops and weapons – something the Kremlin continues to deny.  The actual documents, however, were hidden away in a different location.  The opposition claims that it is in possession of these documents and promises to complete and publish the report in the near future.

It would seem that Putin predicted this murder exactly three years ago in a campaign speech, saying that his enemies were going to whack one of their own, creating a "sacral victim" in a provocation aimed at destabilizing the country.  Last week the Investigative Committee spokesman, Vladimir Markin, repeated Putin's language almost word for word: "the killing could be a political provocation in which Mr. Nemtsov was used as a sacral victim, killed to discredit the government."

But in 1997, when the Russian media was still free and politicians competed on their merits, Nemtsov had a real chance to be Russia's next president, with 29% of the voters choosing him over four other candidates, whose numbers were lower.  His fight against corruption, however, had earned him enemies among two most powerful oligarchs at the time, Gusinsky and Berezovsky.  They used their power to bring Nemtsov down and instead began to elevate Vladimir Putin, who they believed would be more pliable.

Since then, Gusinsky has lost most of his clout, and Berezovsky hanged himself in 2013 in London after thirteen years of exile and one unsuccessful assassination attempt.  His suicide, however, remains an open verdict, especially given the violent death of his former closest associate and harsh Putin critic, Alexander Litvinenko, who in 2006 was poisoned with radioactive Polonium-210 by a Russian FSB officer on orders most likely coming from Putin.

At the time, the Russian media deployed a familiar chaff maneuver.  Among other things, it accused Berezovsky of orchestrating the murder with the goal of framing and discrediting the Russian government.  But Berezovsky filed a U.K. libel suit against Russian State Television and won.  The Kremlin-run media still continued to harass him until his death, including the English-language RT, in an effort to clear Putin's name.

Today, with Putin pledging his personal involvement in the investigation of the murder of his harsh critic, Boris Nemtsov, who was shot in full view of the Kremlin, and with the Russian media in full chaff mode, prepare for another mind-boggling trip through the looking glass.

In the meantime, opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov speculates that even if Putin didn't order the hit, he is nonetheless responsible for the climate of hatred he has fostered and is now using to strengthen his dictatorial powers.  Putin's fingerprints may not be found on the Makarov pistol, but they're still all over the Kremlin-orchestrated witch hunts, harassments, paranoia, and media brainwashing, which eventually had gotten imprinted in someone's murderous mind as a moral license to kill.

"Rubbish," argues another opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, adding that the climate of hatred has existed in Russia since 2007, but lately the Kremlin has taken this a step further and created storm trooper-type organizations like Antimaidan and others, where young thugs are encouraged to use violence against Putin's opponents.  This new development changes a lot of things for the opposition in Russia.

All things considered, whoever the executioners turn out to be, they had silent support of the government, the militants, the nationalists, the corrupt officials, and the millions of brainwashed TV viewers, whom the news of Nemtsov's death made feel warm, content, and secure.  The answer to the question "Who killed Boris Nemtsov?" is this: "His own country did."

The new Russia no longer has room for people like Nemtsov.  He was simply pushed from the game board to give room for more chaff.  Media chaff, military chaff, human chaff – artificial and phony chaff is replacing real people and may well be the emblem of a new era, whose beginning will forever be marked on the calendar as the day Boris Nemtsov was shot in the shadow of the Kremlin.

Oleg Atbashian, a writer and graphic artist from the former USSR, is the author of Shakedown Socialism, of which David Horowitz said, "I hope everyone reads this book."  In 1994 he moved to the U.S. with the hope of living in a country ruled by reason and common sense, appreciative of its freedoms and prosperity.  To his dismay, he discovered a nation deeply infected by the leftist disease of "progressivism" that was arresting true societal progress.  American movies, TV, and news media reminded him of his former occupation as a visual propaganda artist for the Communist Party.  Oleg is the creator of a satirical website, which Rush Limbaugh described on his show as "a Stalinist version of The Onion."  His graphic work frequently appears in the American Thinker.

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