Russia must convict a swift, non-partial investigation and provide answers – this was the first reaction from the European Union to the killing of Boris Nemtsov, widely known as a foremost Putin critic and former deputy prime minister of Russia. This appeal came – perhaps not surprisingly – from Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics, whose country currently holds the EU presidency and that is considered a potential next target of Russian aggression. In the hours before his murder, Nemtsov went on the radio to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies as “mad” and called for people all across Russia to join a mass protest against what many perceive as act of war waged by Putin against its smaller neighbour Ukraine.
However, before Boris Nemtsov could join and lead the Sunday rally that he had helped to organize, he was gunned down Friday night near the Kremlin. Sunday’s rally in Moscow still took place, though on a different theme. Instead of rallying to slam Putin’s policies on Ukraine, thousands of Muscovites gathered to mourn the death of the former deputy prime minister and a leading opposition figure. As they united on the bridge just a short stroll from the Kremlin where Nemtsov’s dead body laid just hours earlier, many conspiracy theories emerged over who killed the staunch critic of president Vladimir Putin and his policies.
Adding fuel to these conspiracy theories was also Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko who was quoted by Ukrinform agency as saying that “A few weeks ago I had a conversation with him [and] Boris said that he was going to make public the strong evidence for participation of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine. Someone was very afraid of that. Boris was not afraid, the executioners were afraid. They killed him.” Moreover, another prominent opposition voice, Garry Kasparov, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, stressed in an interview on Sunday that Nemtsov’s murder has dampened any hope for a peaceful political transition in Russia away from President Vladimir Putin’s government. According to Kasparov, Nemtsov “hoped, in vain as we understand, to see some form of peaceful transition into normal, civilized democratic government.”