Who framed Vladimir Putin?

Who framed Vladimir Putin (and killed Boris Nemtsov)?


This assassination of Boris E. Nemtsov, on the eve of an opposition demonstration, has generated a deep international emotion. Emotion was important too in Moscow, as witness the size of the demonstration in honour of Boris Nemtsov’s memory, which assembled tens of thousands of people March 1st. But this demonstration obscured another one, with also tens of thousands (even if less than in the former one), which took place in the same time. The problem was the Communist party has organized the second demonstration, which was asking for the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev’s government. Quite clearly, those demonstrators were not supposed to be “good” Russians by Western standard. This dichotomy between “good” and “bad” opponents is becoming a trademark of the Western medias, which is day after day more estranged to real Russia.

Nevertheless, it’s clear this assassination could perfectly destabilize the political situation, if not in Russia, at least in Moscow. By the way, it focuses attention on Vladimir Putin, who is going to have to make the case for his innocence, so strong is the suspicion pointing at him. As a matter of fact a large number of Western politicians, and journalists alike, have fingered Putin for this crime without any hard fact or evidence. This raises some questions.

A staged murder?

So far, there are still very few facts on which we could base. But those we had are pointing to a staged murder. It is known that Nemtsov dined with a Ukrainian model at a restaurant within the GUM, and one of GUM’s exits debouches onto Red Square. From there, the facts seem to be as follows:

  1. Nemtsov and his companion left the restaurant on foot, passed St. Basil’s Cathedral, and took the grand bridge that crosses the Moscow River. Considering the hour (between 11 p.m. and midnight), and the season, there was no large crowd on the bridge.
  2. A shooter who fired from behind him killed Boris Nemtsov. The shooter who 8 shots, four of which hit Nemtsov in the back, and then jumped in a car following Nemtsov. Quite interestingly this happened when a snowplough conveniently was on the side masking the scene to motor cameras operating on the bridge.
  3. The weapon used appears to have been and automatic pistol of the Makarov type.
  4. Nemtsov’s companion was not hit.

This is raising some questions. Shooting from behind implies that one has perfectly identified the target. This implies further a degree of expertise in weaponry that is incompatible but with a murder by contract. The risk of missing the target, or of inflicting non-lethal wounds is quite high. It is to be noted the high number of shots, but also the fact that there was not (at least from what information has been gathered) a finishing shot.

From this point of view one wonder why not wait till Nemtsov returned home? The classic type of a contract killing occurs in a spot where one is sure to find the victim, the stairwell of the apartment building, or as the victim exits a restaurant. The very choice of crime scene could indicate a demonstrative intention, such as to implicate Putin in the murder? In any case, it is evident that the assassins took risks that seem to indicate a political intention. All this makes one think of a set-up, a staging.

For what for?

The medias, in France and in countries of the West, have put forth the idea of a murder commanded by the Kremlin, or by movements close to Kremlin. We will say right now that the first hypothesis is not coherent with the crime scene. Further, it is hard to see what interest the Russian government would have to have one of the opposition killed, certainly a well-known opponent, but one who had fallen into the political background. When Vladimir Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, said that Nemtsov did not represent any danger nor any threat for power, was perfectly true. And supposing the murder of Nemtsov was an attempt to frighten the others in opposition, it would have been lots simpler him at home. The idea of an involvement direct or indirect of the Russian government thus appears highly improbable.

Another hypothesis put forward by the Russian opposition, is that people belonging to the extremist-nationalist fringe, close, but not directly tied, to the Russian power, would have committed the crime. Actually it is known that extremist groups have threatened in the recent past diverse opponents, including Nemtsov. These groups by the way fault Vladimir Putin’s being lukewarm in support of the insurgents of the Donbass, and in supplying the insurrection with volunteers. It is perfectly possible to find, in the ranks of these movements, persons capable of committing this murder. But then one would have to reply to several questions:


  1. Why would these people kill Nemtsov more or less directly “under the windows” of the Kremlin? The probable staging of the murder doesn’t fit well with this theory.
  2. How would these people have gathered knowledge about Nemtsov’s behaviour after he left with a girl at his arm the restaurant? Again, a killing at Nemtsov’s home would have made much more sense. And, if the girl is linked to the killing (even not directly and not in the intent), that would have necessitated deep connections in Ukraine, which are not running toward a killing organized by Russian extreme nationalists.


Here again, had the murder taken place at the restaurant exit, or at Nemtsov’s flat, one could (may be) believe in this hypothesis. However the conditions in accomplishing this assassination, and the staging implicit in it, seem barely compatible with the act of a group of extremists. Let’s say it bluntly: the level of organisation of this assassination probably carries the trace of implicating “services”, which could be at state level or private level — the oligarchs have the means to use private ‘services.’ But then one must repeat, the involvement of Russian services makes no sense. From Putin’s point of view, and from the government’s, this assassination is a catastrophe, not just for politics, but also in the war of information.

A provocation?

Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have immediately advanced the hypothesis of a provocation. It is easy to see the appeal for them of this hypothesis. But one must have the honesty to say that’s what it is. Putin is actually the target of a deep and widespread hate campaign in the Western medias. The killing of someone supposed to be an opponent is just something journalists could not resist. They moved on accusing him of all sins on the earth. The fact that Nemtsov was strongly linked to policies which failed in the 90’s and lead Russia to the brink of collapse has been forgotten. The fact that Nemtsov has chosen to advise Orange Revolution Ukrainian governments since 2004 has been forgotten. A lot of people, and not just in Russia, could want to see Nemtsov dead. But all this has been forgotten and the rallying word is now “Putin is killer” or “Putin has inspired Nemtsov’s killer”. It is just a shame, a dirty shame. But this is consistent with the war Western medias are waging against Russia and Putin.

To a large extent Putin appears to be a collateral victim of Nemtsov killing. If this is a provocation, it could have been organized by a lot of people; many countries and many people have a motive to trip up Vladimir Putin like this. So we have to ask the perennial question in such a situation: who could benefit from this killing? Certainly not Vladimir Putin.


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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