U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a thorough and transparent investigation into the murder of Russian opposition politician and activist Boris Nemtsov.
Former Russian chess champion and rights activist Garry Kasparov said he is shattered by the news and said it comes amid an atmosphere of propaganda and hatred aimed at opponents of President Vladimir Putin.
Appearing on the ABC network program “This Week” on Sunday, Kerry said the United States has no intelligence on who might be responsible for themurder of Nemtsov, who was gunned down late Friday on a Moscow street near the Kremlin.
"We hope there will be a thorough, transparent, real investigation not just of actually who fired the shots, but whom, if anyone may have ordered or instructed this or been behind this," said Kerry.
Kerry described Nemtsov as deeply committed to a better relationship between Russia and the rest of the world.
"As deputy prime minister, he worked hard to improve the relationship with the United States. He was known as an activist as engaged and engaging, and we are enormously saddened to hear of his murder, and we hope the authorities will join the world in producing the credible, transparent investigation necessary to find out who was behind this and who did it," said Kerry.
President Barack Obama in a statement Friday called Nemtsov a “tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled.” Obama expressed admiration for Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”
Appearing on the NBC program “Meet the Press” Sunday, former world chess champion and chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation Garry Kasparov called the murder of Nemtsov, a man he knew for more than 20 years and collaborated with since 2004 to oppose Putin, “another crime in Putin’s Russia.”
Putin has vowed to pursue those who killed Nemtsov. Kasparov said he is unsure if Putin was behind the murder, but said the atmosphere created by Putin’s rule may have played a part.
"Whether he gave a direct order, I don’t know. We’ll probably never know. But, definitely, in the country [there is] the atmosphere, with 24/7 propaganda, of hatred, where people who disagree with Putin are being portrayed as national traitors, fifth columnists, enemies of the state, and Boris was one of the most formidable critics of Putin’s regime," said Kasparov.
Kasparov, writing Sunday in The Wall Street Journal, said the question of whether Putin gave the order to kill Nemtsov “rings as hollow today as when journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in 2006, the same year that Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London, or when a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine last year,” wrote Kasparov.
Kasparov said many Russian opposition leaders are either behind bars or out of the country.
"And now, with Boris, probably one of the bravest of us, and the man was standing tall, criticizing Putin. By the way, he was preparing his new report on Russian troops in Ukraine just to prove another Kremlin lie. Him being killed, and not just killed in a dark corner of the city, but in front of the Kremlin, it sends a chilling signal to everybody. It spreads fear and terror and that’s why I expect the regime will benefit from this murder," said Kasparov.
Kasparov added that no one in Moscow who opposes the Putin government feels safe. As for U.S. reaction, he urged the U.S. not to treat Putin as if he were another democratic leader.
"Stop making deals and stop trying to bring Putin to the negotiating table because his agenda is totally opposite the agenda of the United States or Europe. Putin wants to destroy Ukrainian statehood. Putin wants crisis, because crisis, wars, and the lack of international security, those are elements that are absolutely vital for his survival in Russia," said Kasparov.
Kasparov said the best way to remember Boris Nemtsov is to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.
Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said he believes the murder will make change in Russia unavoidable, but Russia analyst Jonathan Adelman of the University of Denver disagrees.
"Putin is over 80-percent popularity in Russia today. The opposition, which several years ago seemed to have some chance to overthrow him, kind of fizzled away. Putin is also doing very well in Ukraine," said Adelman.
"Unfortunately, the strength of the opposition is mainly limited to Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in the other 85-percent of the country Putin is still very popular. Boris Nemtsov was an important leader, he was deputy prime minister, he was supposed to be the one likely to replace [former President] Boris Yeltsin at the end of the 1990s but, sadly, the cause which we believe in and he believed in still has a long way to go, I’m afraid, in Russia," he said.
Adelman said the Russian opposition is receiving very little support from the West, further evidence the world has left the post-Cold War period and entered a new, more authoritarian period.