3 Mar 2015

The mysterious fates met by Putin critics

The murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov on Friday has once again highlighted the grim fates that have befallen several of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, from radiation poisoning to imprisonment.

Boris Nemtsov

A day after tens of thousands of people marched in Moscow to honour Nemtsov’s memory, FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the more high-profile cases of Putin opponents who have met with cruel – and sometimes bizarre – ends.

nemtsov demo

Boris Nemtsov: Nemtsov was a leader of the Republican Party of Russia/People's Freedom Party, a liberal opposition group. He rose to prominence in 1997 after he was named deputy premier by Russia’s first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, and was once seen as a possible Yeltsin heir. But that honour went to Putin in 2000, with Nemtsov serving as a deputy MP in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, during Putin’s first term.

As Putin tightened his grip, however, Nemtsov became a prominent anti-corruption activist and a vocal critic of Putin’s government. In February 2008, he co-authored a report entitled "What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought" that detailed how many of Putin’s friends and supporters had become billionaires under his rule while the majority of Russians suffered under growing social inequality and a failing pension system. Similar reports followed in subsequent years criticising Putin’s policies.


In a 2011 interview, Nemtsov called critics of Putin’s government “patriots”. “I love Russia and want the best for her, so for me criticising Putin is a very patriotic activity because these people are leading Russia to ruin,” Nemtsov said in an interview republished Saturday on the Meduza news site. “Everybody who supports them, in fact, supports a regime that is destroying the country, and so they are the ones who hate Russia. And those who criticise this regime, those who fight against it, they are the patriots.”

Meduza said that before his death Nemtsov was working on a report that alleges that the Russian “volunteers” who are fighting in eastern Ukraine are acting on direct orders from the Kremlin. In an interview with Russia's Sobesednik news website on February 10, Nemtsov expressed his enmity for Putin and offered a sombre prediction. "I'm afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn't dislike him more," he said.

More of Putin opponents who have met with cruel and bizarre ends at France 24