In-Depth: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced this resolution on the fourth anniversary of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov’s assassination. This resolution would condemn Nemtsov’s assassination, call on the Trump Administration to sanction the responsible parties, and call for an international investigation to bring the assassination’s perpetrators to justice:
“Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s crosshairs. Now he joins a long list of brave journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents murdered by Putin’s henchmen in their quest to silence all criticism of the Kremlin and stamp out any perceived threat to Putin’s authoritarian regime. [This] resolution sends a bipartisan, bicameral message to the Russian government—the United States Congress demands justice for Boris Nemtsov. We will continue fighting for a proper investigation into the murder, and we will push the Trump Administration to enact strong sanctions on those responsible.”
In opening remarks at the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s full committee markup of this resolution, Rep. Engel added that he personally met — and was impressed by — Nemtsov not long before his assassination:
“This resolution condemns the Kremlin’s systematic targeting of its political opponents and it calls on the Administration to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions on those responsible for Nemtsov’s murder and coverup. It also requires the Administration to deliver to Congress a thorough report on Nemtsov’s assassination. That’s a critical part of this legislation. Because sadly, the Administration hasn’t done nearly enough to give us much reason to stand up to Russia and call out Putin’s thuggery. So, it’s up to Congress to assert American leadership on this issue… I want to just personally tell you, I have on my desk in my office a picture of me, shaking hands with Boris Nemtsov...it is...shocking. When we moved offices, I saw that picture, I had forgotten about it. He came and visited me and told me he was the opponent of Putin, and that he was for free, independent elections, and for a free Russia. I was very, very impressed with him, and thought, “Wow, this man is really special.” Apparently, unfortunately, Putin thought so too, and had him killed right in Moscow. But…I remember him telling me about how he felt how important his work was, and I told him that I thought he was really working not for just the people in Russia, but for people all over the world. So I want to just mention that because Boris Nemtsov, it was quite an honor for me to meet him and of course, just a few months later he was murdered. So it’s just...startling."
Rep. Michael McCaul (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and an original cosponsor of this resolution, adds:
"History has shown us that tyrants and dictators will take extreme measures to silence political opposition for the purposes of clinging to power. And the assassination of Boris Nemtsov outside the Kremlin four years ago was a shocking example of how far Vladimir Putin will go to stifle dissent and strike fear within his own people. The United States strongly condemns the targeting of political opponents and any attempted cover up by the authoritarian regime in Moscow. Our bipartisan resolution introduced in the House today makes clear that Boris Nemtsov’s unwavering support for freedom and democracy for the people of Russia will never be forgotten. We will stand by their side until justice is served."
This resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with the support of 15 bipartisan cosponsors, including eight Democrats and seven Republicans.
Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have introduced a companion resolution in the Senate. That resolution has five cosponsors in addition to Sen. Rubio, of whom three are Republicans and two are Democrats.
Of Note: Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov, a Russian physicist and politician, was a leading figure in the opposition movement for free-market economics and democratic social reforms in post-communist Russia. He was also an outspoken critic of Putin. Nemtsov advocated opposition reform movements in Russia as the cofounder and leader of the neoliberal Union of Right Forces, as co-founder (with chess champion Garry Kasparov) of the pro-democracy Solidarnost, and as co-founder and co-chair of the People’s Freedom Party. He was shot dead on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge near Red Square just before midnight on February 27, 2015 — days after he publicly denounced Russian military involvement in Ukraine in 2015. Putin condemned the killing after the Interior Ministry confirmed it.
After Nemtsov’s death, a trial held in Moscow ended in 2017 with five Chechen men — shooter Zaur Dadayev, brothers Shadid and Anzor Gubashev, Temirlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev — convicted for his murder. During the trial, the judge didn’t allow questions about Nemtsov’s opposition politics to be asked. However, Nemtsov’s lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, and human rights activists condemned the trial as a cover-up that left the attack’s real organizers unpunished. After the verdict, Prokhorov said:
“We can’t say we’re satisfied with the verdict. We would be happy if the murder hadn’t happened. But the main thing is neither the organisers nor those who ordered [the killing] have been found.”
After the men’s sentencing to prison terms ranging from 11 to 20 years, Prokhorov continued to argue that the assassination involved top Russian officials:
“Neither the organisers nor the masterminds were in the dock. No one any longer doubts that the trail leads to the close circle of Ramzan Kadyrov. The trail leads at least as far as Grozny [the Chechen capital], and perhaps higher.”
Opposition politician Ilya Yashin, a close ally of Nemtsov’s, also criticized the trial’s outcome, saying, “It’s impossible to consider the crime solved while the masterminds and organisers are still at liberty.”
Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, says the investigation into her father’s murder was blocked by high-ranking politicians, and as such “The organizers have not been identified, found and brought to justice. The motive behind the killing, obviously political, hasn’t been officially acknowledged.” Nemtsova believes the international community can help by either undertaking its own investigations or putting pressure on Russian authorities to undertake a new, thorough investigation of her father’s murder.
Nemtsov is only one of many Kremlin critics who’ve been murdered or died under highly suspicious circumstances. These people include exile Nikolai Glushkov, oligarch and political exile Boris Berezovsky, human rights activist Nastya Estimerova, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vlad_karavaev)