Will Boris Nemtsov get justice?
Written by: Khayelihle Khumalo
A fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin is no more. Boris Nemtsov, who is also an opposition leader, was due to march against Russia’s annexation of Ukraine and the next thing; he was brutally gunned down walking with his model girlfriend adjacent the Red Square in the Russian capital city Moscow.
Subsequently, President Putin established a high level investigation team and vowed to handle this matter personally and five people have been arrested. However, don’t you think it’s all happening so quickly? Nothing can stop Putin from getting a couple of guys in Russia’s unstable town of Chechnya and order them to confess for this despicable political assassination.
After all, Nemtsov has given Putin some hard time, as he wants to restore the prestige of Russia, the once mighty and powerful Soviet Union, which was pitted against the United States as a paragon of socialism during the Cold War.
President Putin has vowed to act decisively to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, but what if this is all a smokescreen and he contributed in assassinating Nemtsov? South Africa and Russia are fairly good friends, and they are BRICS membership. BRICS is an influential emerging economies group. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Pretoria remains Moscow’s largest trading partner by far.
Nemtsov’s bizarre death came at a very crucial time, as Russia’s democracy is under siege. Another Liberal politician Sergey Yushenkov was assassinated in 2003 and the investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin were also killed. Recently, in 2013, Boris Berezovskly was found dead in his London home. The common thread here is that all the deceased were critics of President Putin, and now we have to question whether Nemtsov will get his justice?
Putin appears to be hell-bent in using every means to silence his critics and this sad chapter has seen an outpouring of condolences from all over the world, US President Barack Obama has described this killing as a brutal murder and has called on Moscow to conduct a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko labelled Nemtsov as a bridge between Ukraine and Russia and Poroshenko added that the murderers shot has destroyed it and it is not by accident.
But there is always another conspiracy here that the Western countries might have orchestrated the killing, so as to fuel tensions in Russia and paint Putin as a bad guy, hostility between Russia and the West is palpable. When President Putin went to a G-20 summit in Australia, he was side lined for violating international norms, essentially by invading another country Ukraine and taking away its land.
Obviously, South Africa has its fair share of issues to sort out at home and already our peace-keeping missions in various parts of Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, are under tremendous pressure. Our foreign policy is anchored on Ubuntu (humanity). I think we need to propagate our message very clear that political instabilities have no place in the 21st century and Russia should also play its role in making sure that democratic values are respected in that country and opposition leaders should not be silenced for raising important issues, which might be in contrary with Putin. Rule of law should also be at the core in addressing all these political assassinations, even the United Nations Security Council should be roped in, if need be, to ensure justice prevails.
President Putin, who also chairs the United Russia party, should stop terrorising his opponents, prior to Nemtsov’s death; he was subject to humiliation including arrests and received death threats almost daily. He was a staunch liberal and once served as former President Boris Yeltsin’s deputy prime minister.