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Putin critic Boris Nemtsov has been murdered. It's a troubling prospect that this crime - like so many other politically motivated acts - will never be fully solved, writes DW's Ingo Mannteufel.
The murder of liberal Russian politician Boris Nemtsov in a public area in Moscow shows clear indications of being an assassination. Everything currently points to this conclusion. Nemtsov was shot four times in the back. It happened shortly before Sunday's planned opposition protest in Moscow's outer Marino district under the motto "Spring," aimed against Russia's Ukraine policies. Nemtsov, the victim, had long been a key figure of the anti-Putin movement and played a substantial role in organizing Sunday's protest.
Speculation and conspiracy theories
It is certainly a bit too early and speculative to interpret the political consequences of this assassination. What's needed first is a thorough investigation of the act and its causes, although this seems unlikely given the reality in Russia. Considering that an objective and fact-based exchange of information has been on the decline in the public political discussion in recent years, it's likely that very soon all sorts of suppositions and conspiracy theories will circulate.
Those theories might connect the murder with Nemtsov's various business dealings. Some will see it as the result of Nemtsov being a severe critic of Putin and the Kremlin for years. There's also likely to be talk of a violent feud within the Russian opposition or that the shooting was an act by Russian nationalists, who were responsible for the 2009 assassination of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. It's a troubling prospect that Nemtsov's murder - like so many other politically motivated crimes - will never be fully explained.
In light of the anti-Kremlin demonstration planned for tomorrow, it makes sense to search for the causes of the crime within this context. According to reports by Nemtsov's allies, the outspoken politician was planning to publish facts and documents on Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict and the presence of Russian troops in the Donbass region. On social media platforms, Russian right-wing extremists connected to the New Russia Party in Donbass have already hailed Nemtsov's murder as a success.
Seething political atmosphere
It is certain that the brutal murder of a leading Russian opposition figure will only exacerbate political tensions in Russia. The hatred directed at dissidents and Kremlin critics - fomented by the media and politicians - has reached unbearable proportions in recent years. The portraits of Nemtsov and other anti-Putin personalities have also been used as physical targets at youth camps organized by the Russian government. This is why President Putin and the Kremlin are responsible for this toxic political atmosphere.