Nemtsov's death: ‘Putin is the last person to be interested’

Boris Nemtsov (RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Sisoev)
Although Boris Nemtsov was an open critic of Vladimir Putin, he had little political influence, says political analyst Dmitry Babich. The analyst says the tragic death is a "huge gift to Putin-haters in the West” who wish to blame the Russian president.

Dmitry Babich: It’s clearly a huge tragedy. It’s a very cruel murder. But certainly I would not say that Mr. Nemtsov was in any way a threat to President Putin. He had absolutely zero chances of winning any elections at least since the 1990s, when he had some electoral successes. So to say that Nemtsov was killed in order to influence Russian policy on Ukraine, I think it’s clearly an exaggeration.

RT: And of course, the last person in the world who was interested in this murder is President Putin, because it’s quite clear how this story is going to be spun by the Western media.

DB: In general I would say that, if you look at history, whenever there is a deterioration of relations between Russia and the West, opposition figures, sometimes liberal politicians, are murdered under mysterious circumstances. And all of them at a certain moment had connections with powerful oligarchs, like Mr. Berezovsky – who is now also dead – and others. And these are always shady stories. So it’s a tragedy of the Russian liberal movement that almost all of its leaders die violent deaths under mysterious circumstances.

President Boris Yeltsin and deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, February 5, 1998 RIA Novosti / Vladimir Rodionov)

RT: So, what about the reaction to Nemtsov’s death? What are people saying out there?

DB: Liberal opposition leaders, people like Alexei Kudrin (former finance minister) and Mikhail Kasyanov (former prime minister), they all say this is a tragedy for Russia, that he was a great politician. I wouldn’t quite agree that he was a successful politician, at least during the last 15 years of his political activity. But certainly, his figure is connected to the 90s. And various people have various feelings about this period. It was the period of, I would say, political youth of Russia, when we first got a taste of democracy, and Mr. Nemtsov is associated in our memory with that time – which was difficult, but also interesting. So I don’t think a lot of people consider Mr. Nemtsov a hero, but certainly everybody has been made very sad and angry by the cruelty of this murder.

Boris Nemtsov killed in Moscow LIVE UPDATES

RT: Another opposition figure, Mikhail Kasyanov, has said that he has no clue who could possibly want Nemtsov dead. What do you think the possible motives could be? We know that he was an opposition figure, a popular opposition figure. What could these motives be? We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, and we know this is speculation.

DB: Well I agree with former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that it is very difficult to guess who would be interested in this murder. Certainly, I would repeat my thought that President Putin is the last person to be interested in this kind of development. Nemtsov was not only a critic of Putin; he insulted Putin many times – in public, in the mass media. He was an open political opponent of Putin, to put it mildly. So having that person killed right now, of course it’s a huge gift to Putin-haters in the West, who will immediately start spinning the story the same way they spun the story of the murder of Anna Politikovskaya, or the murder of Sergei Yushchenkov…These terrible murders were always blamed by the mainstream media on President Putin, although absolutely no facts would support those theories.

RT: Moving on down the road, what possible implications could we be seeing of Nemtsov’s murder for the Russian political arena?

DB: Well I think the main implications will be in the way the Western press will react to it, because I don’t foresee any significant changes in the Russian political landscape. Since the 1990s, Nemtsov was not a successful politician. He was not particularly popular among the general public. Just about six months ago, he won a small regional election in Yaroslavl, became a deputy in the local legislature. Before that, for about 10 years, he could not win a single election. So, most of the implications will be in the media sphere, how the Western media will play this terrible tragedy, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine, which the Western media also blames on Putin and on Russia, I think quite unjustly.