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'I'm fighting dictatorship in Russia'

Nikita Jolkver / groMay 28, 2015

The accusation weighs heavily: Russian President Vladimir Putin has political responsibility for the murder of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov's daughter spoke to DW about the situation in Russia.

Zhanna Nemzowa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Schindler

Deutsche Welle: Ms. Nemtsova, you are considered to be an injured party in the murder of your father and are allowed access to the investigation files. As is to be expected, you must treat them confidentially. Is there anything journalists still do not know?

Zhanna Nemtsova: It is not as simple as you think. Former investigator Igor Krasnov had actually promised to show me all the material, including video footage. But now Krasnov has been replaced by Nikolai Tutevich. We met on Friday, May 25. The meeting was not constructive; I am disappointed. He did not want to grant me access to all the files. He promised to show me parts. He suggested I come on Tuesday. When I told him I will be in Berlin on that day, Tutevich said I might not be allowed to leave the country. That was supposed to be a joke.

You tell reporters that the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin himself have political responsibility for the murder of Boris Nemtsov. What do you mean by that?

Firstly, the most famous representative of the opposition and Putin critic was killed in Russia. Secondly, we see how tedious the investigations are. Not only I, but many others have legitimate doubts whether this investigation will proceed properly. This requires a political will which does not exist.

Furthermore, there are some less important details that indirectly suggest a political responsibility. For example, after my father's assassination, the state broadcaster presented yet another one of those filthy shows about him because more than 50,000 people took part in his funeral march; some even say 100,000. A commemorative plaque at the scene of the murder was prohibited, as was a memorial concert. That's why we organized a TV marathon at "Dozhd," the independent Russian TV channel. I am thankful to them for this.

Deutschland Schanna Nemzowa in Berlin
Zhanna Nemtsova with DW's Nikita JolkverImage: DW/N. Jolkver

After the murder, suspects from the North Caucasus were arrested. Do you think that the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov could clarify the matter, if you asked him, or rather, if he testified in a hearing?

A request to cross-examine Kadyrov was made but rejected. I think it would help to hear him. He himself said he had no objections to a hearing.

Some say that the Kremlin is not very satisfied with Kadyrov, to put it mildly, but that he must be endured as a lesser evil in the present situation, for if you offended the president of Chechnya, it would mean war.

I think that opinion is not entirely unfounded. But I'm not good at judging relations among state powers. There are always differences of opinion within the ruling classes, although that does not mean that the president's power is under threat. But what you have said may be one of the reasons for what is happening right now.

Russland Beisetzung Nemzow Symbolbild
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin on February 27, 2015Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Zemlianichenko

Your father was once asked whether his views have changed in the past 20 years. He said no. And yours? In 2009, a fairly short time ago, you had expressed quite positive views on Putin.

Let's not confuse views with sensibilities. Views can remain the same, but sensibilities can change. Let's say, you are well-disposed toward a person. But then something goes wrong and he/she betrays you. Then your behavior toward the person changes, but not your views. My views have not changed. I have always been against dictatorship. It probably runs in my blood. I do not want a repressive country, because it makes life stressful. There are no prospects for integral human development in a repressive state: I only see intellectual decline, nothing else. Hardly anyone could imagine that things would turn out this way. It was even unfathomable to my father that things would turn out this way, despite his vast political experience. By the way, I have never voted for Putin. And right from the beginning, I was against the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine.

You speak of intellectual decline, stressful lives and no prospects, yet you still live in Russia. What is keeping you there?

Why should I leave my country? I am a Russian citizen and love Russia. Russia is not only Putin. You cannot put an equal sign between the words Russia and Putin. Russia is my home and every normal human being wants to live at home. I live here for my family, my social circles and my work, which I find interesting.

You host a business show on the TV channel RBK. You are an expert in stock markets and exchange rates. Can a free economy develop in a dictatorship – which Russia has already turned into in your opinion?

Of course not. In Russia, the entire economy is run by the state. On an international level there are examples, like Singapore, in which the economy is developing under a dictatorship. But the situation depends on the dictator and his personality. Things can go well, but they can also go wrong. That is exactly why you need democratic institutions. That's why the leading economies in the world are democracies. In the current political situation with sanctions against Russia, it is difficult to speak of economic development. In my opinion, a long period of stagnation or only very limited growth will follow the crisis, which is unfolding now - figures in April were terrible.

It is well-known that the Russian state strictly monitors major TV channels. How freely can you work at the private channel RBK?

There is a certain degree of freedom in financial matters. I am free to express my opinions on the economy. I do not comment on politics on RBK. RBK does not want me to be a political commentator. But I feel such a loss after my father's murder that I will not remain silent outside the station just to keep my job at RBK. I want people to know what is happening. I want to keep my father's memory alive. I want to help people who are fighting for freedom in Russia.

Zhanna Nemtsova is the daughter of the late opposition leader and Putin critic, Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in Moscow in late February 2015. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom invited her to Berlin.

The interview was conducted by DW's Nikita Jolkver.