An activist and loud critic of Putin’s government, Boris Nemtsov was a strong advocate of democracy in Russia before his murder in February 2015. Many have since speculated that the assassination was orchestrated by the Kremlin.
His political career began in the 1980’s but it wasn’t until 1990 that the former scientist was elected to parliament in the first free elections within Russia. Assuming a political position under the government of Boris Yeltsin he was the only non-communist candidate to run for that seat at the time.
By 2000 he was well established in the political spectrum as a strong critic of his country’s authoritarian regime and opted not to back Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections. He was also noted for standing against a number of Putin’s policies which accelerated his position in the public eye both in Russia and the Western world.
But in 2003 Nemtsov was ousted from the Russian Government and despite political efforts to quieten the dissident, he continued to challenge the political might of Putin through other avenues. He spent the next few years involved with protests and activist groups and delivered one of his most famous criticisms of government at a rally of 100,000 people in 2011 where he declared that Putin’s government had ‘proven that they are a party of crooks and thieves’.
Boris Nemtsov was a charismatic and likable politician remembers fellow activist and friend Vladimir Kara-Murza. He said: “Nemtsov was a maverick, a ‘white crow,’ as we say in Russian, always choosing principles over political expediency.”
Having led a peace march attended by 50,000 people, the last months of his life were still active against Putin’s involvement with Ukraine and Crimea. By this point he had also had four children, was an eloquent English speaker and remained a likeable figure with absolute conviction that Putin’s regime would eventually fall.
Close to midnight on February 27, 2015 Nemtsov was shot four times in the back whilst crossing a bridge close to the Kremlin – and died at the scene. At that time it was one of the most high-profile killings since Putin’s rise to power and it sent shock waves around the world.
Months later five Chechen men were put on trial and Zaur Dadayev was eventually jailed for 20 years for carrying out the assassination. The sentence remains heavily disputed by the majority of people including Nemtsov’s family who point to an obvious political cover-up.
The activists legacy as a believer of truth and democracy however still continues throughout the world to this day. It was recently reported by the Washington Post that the Russian Embassy in America is now located on the street named in memory of Nemtsov.