U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the “brutal murder” of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, and called for a full investigation into the killing.
“The United States condemns the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov, and we call upon the Russian government to conduct a prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his murder and ensure that those responsible for this vicious killing are brought to justice,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama met Nemtsov during a 2009 trip to Moscow, where he held talks with opposition parties after a meeting with then-President Dmitry Medvedev. Obama said he admired Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”
With Nemtsov’s death, Obama said, Russians have lost “one of the most dedicated and eloquent defenders of their rights.”
“Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled,” Obama said.
In the old days of the post-Cold War world, the U.S. learned the hard way that when we could make a difference, we should. In Rwanda, we didn’t, and 800,000 died. In Bosnia, we tarried, and more than 100,000 died and 2 million were displaced before we acted. It’s time to take those lessons and now act in Ukraine.
In the Balkans in 1991, we let the Europeans lead with diplomacy to halt Serb aggression disguised as ethnic conflict. Diplomacy failed. We supported the Europeans when they asked for United Nations peacekeepers, from Britain, France, Sweden and even Bangladesh. That also failed. Only when the U.S. took the lead and applied military power to reinforce diplomacy did we halt the conflict. And we did succeed in ending it with minimal expense and without losing a single soldier.
In Ukraine today, Russian-backed forces continue to reinforce and attack Ukrainian positions. The Minsk II agreement that calls for a cease-fire, pullback of heavy weapons, and withdrawal of foreign forces hasn’t been implemented. Losses on both sides are heavy, far heavier than publicly acknowledged. Russia is using its newest equipment — tanks, long range rockets, cluster munitions, drones, electronic warfare — to slowly grind away Ukrainian forces that lack modern equipment. Russia, of course, still denies its troops are present: This is “hybrid warfare,” military aggression covered by the cloak of lies and propaganda. But, actually, except perhaps for a few stubborn European diplomats, there is surprisingly little dispute as to the facts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists there is no military solution — but, as in the Balkans, there will be no diplomatic solution until the military “door” is closed for Russian President Vladimir Putin. And closing the door is actually simpler than many would have you believe.
Congress passed the USD 350m Ukraine Freedom Support Act late December 2014
US Senator John McCain has claimed Washington is allowing Ukrainian soldiers are being ‘slaughtered’ by Russian military equipment, so not to provoke a confrontation with Vladimir Putin. The Republican lawmaker made the remarks at a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a powerful organisation in Congress that oversees military and defence policymaking. McCain used his position as chairman to justify his argument to provide weapons to Ukrainian forces.
John McCain, US Senator: “This idea that somehow we will provoke Vladimir Putin – he’s done everything he wanted to do, General. You tell me what he didn’t want to do that he would have done if we had provided these people with the ability to defend themselves rather than be slaughtered by the most modern equipment that the Russians have.”
In response, Major General Vincent Stewart explained that any efforts by Washington to arm Ukraine would be made redundant by Russia, who has significant advantages compared to the US.
Vincent Stewart, Marine Forces Cyber Command: “So it would be a race to see who could arm and I think with their interior lines they would have a significant advantage on the ground.”
John McCain, US Senator: “I am sure that the Russians had a significant advantage when they invaded Afghanistan. I am sure that throughout history when we’ve helped people who have been invaded and oppressed and when we haven’t what the consequences have been. Very disappointing, General.”
In the same meeting, the US spy chief James Clipper said Moscow still aimed to secure a land corridor between Russia and Crimea by capturing Mariupol – although they would wait until spring to attack.
The White House has deliberated for months on whether to arm Ukraine. Obama has the choice either to go with public opinion or hold off from potentially fuelling the flames of the conflict in Ukraine, that’s already claimed thousands of lives. Late last December, both the US House and Senate passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, paving the way for USD 350 million in lethal and nonlethal military assistance; a rare agreement in the usually divided Congress, although a decision on lethal aid has yet to be made.
Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in the centre of Moscow tonight, two days before an opposition rally in Moscow that he was co-organizing and 2 weeks after he told a Russian newspaper that, like his mother, he was afraid that Vladimir Putin would have him killed. His was one of the few public voices of sanity in Russia, unafraid to speak out and even make a film about the war Putin has launched against Ukraine.
Reports say he was shot four times in the back after a number of men got out of a car. Despite this being very close to the Kremlin, the killer or killers got away. As with all the other murders of opposition leaders, independent journalists and activists, there will doubtless be international calls for a ‘full investigation’, etc. and somebody may even be arrested and imprisoned.
This is what Boris Nemtsov, now silenced, had to say in an interview on Feb 10 to Sobesednik.ru.
“I have never concealed my political views. I believe that it was he [Putin] who started the war in Ukraine. My attitude to him could not be worse. Especially after Nord-Ost and Beslan”.
Nemtsov spoke of his mother – Dina Yakovlevna Eidman – who in March will be 87. She lives alone in Nizhny Novgorod but follows what is happening in Russia – and in Ukraine.
“She is categorically against what is happening in Ukraine, she thinks it’s a catastrophe and a total nightmare. However more than Ukraine, she’s worried about Putin. Every time I ring her, she laments: “When will you stop criticizing Putin? He’ll kill you!” And she really means it.
She naturally has a very bad opinion of Putin – I’m her son, after all, and it was Mama who taught me that you have to uphold your point of view, be independent and think for yourself. It was she who raised me that way, and now is indignant that I criticize Putin who is trying to take away our freedom. She is seriously frightened that he could kill me in the near future because of my public statements, both in the outside world and on social networks. And, I repeat, these are not jokes: she’s an intelligent woman. She’s really afraid of this.”
“And have you, after such conversations with your mother, begun to fear that Putin could kill you in the near future, either himself or via go-betweens?”
“You know, yes… A bit. Not as strongly as my mother, but still … But nonetheless I’m not so very afraid of him. If I was so very afraid, then I’d hardly have headed an opposition party, have hardly done what I’ve been doing.”
“I hope that common sense will after all prevail and that Putin won’t kill you.”
“Please God, I hope so too”.
Boris Nemtsov was one of the few totally decent and consistent politicians in Russia. Where Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny’s opposition to Putin and his regime failed to extend to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, Boris Nemtsov remained true to his – and his mother’s – principles and was adamantly opposed to Moscow’s actions both in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine.
In 2014 he and Leonid Marynyuk presented a film entitled ‘The Warmonger’ [Разжигатель войны] about Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine.
He consistently reported all evidence of Russian soldiers and Russian military equipment in Ukraine. One of his recent Facebook posts about the rally planned for Sunday spoke of Russia’s military expenditure.
“The government’s anti-crisis plan envisages continuation of the war against Ukraine. Expenditure is being decreased on medicine, education, culture, that is, virtually everything except military expenditure.” He explained that military spending had increased by 33% since 2014. “This type of increase is impossible in peacetime. This is a war budget”.
Boris Nemtsov was outspoken over Nord Ost and Beslan. As we know, but most western governments preferred not to say too loudly so as not to annoy Putin, heavy artillery was deployed against a school with well over a thousand hostages, more than half children. He was also fearlessly honest about the human (and environmental) cost of Putin’s determination to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Russian “separatist” proxies in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic ” (DNR) have announced that they consider Mariopol “their ” territory. DNR representative Denis Pushilin made that clear during negotiations with the Trilateral Contact Group, reports the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, February 26.
“Throughout the entire territory we consider individual (areas) within the administrative (borders) of the former Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to be ours and we consider it right that they become part of DNR and LNR. However, we will do our best for this to happen through political means. Only time will tell how it happens in fact,” Pushilin said.
It should be noted that the terrorists fired on ATO forces four times in the Mariupol area on February 25.
On January 24, terrorist fired Grad rockets into residential areas in the city, killing 30 people and wounding around a 100. More than 50 buildings and 4 schools were destroyed.
Having been slowed by Ukrainian resistance and hope to use the Minsk Accords to avoid new sanctions, Moscow is planning to spark uprisings in major Ukrainian cities in March and April before beginning a major military attack on the country in May, according to Yuri Lutsenko, head of the Poroshenko fraction in the Verkhovna Rada.
He says that the operations up to now were Plan A, the risings Moscow is seeking to organize in Ukrainian cities is Plan B, and a major new Russian aggression against Ukraine is Plan C, and he suggests that Plan B has a real chance because of the unhappiness of some in Ukraine with Kyiv’s policies.
Some may be inclined to dismiss this as nothing more than a reflection of Ukrainian fears and part of an effort to get the West to provide additional support, including defensive arms, but there are there important reasons why that would be a mistake.
First, as the “Novaya gazeta” document highlights, Moscow has been making plans about Ukraine for years, and consequently, it is almost certain that Russian officials or those like Malofeyev near the Kremlin have come up with plans like Lutsenko describes and that Ukrainians have learned about them.
Second, using urban revolts as a means of undermining the power of Kyiv and allowing Moscow to expand its influence in Ukraine is absolutely consistent not only with the ideas of hybrid war but reflects something else: taking any Ukrainian city, even Mariupol, would be extremely difficult by military means alone.
Such actions would likely require the use of massive artillery shelling or bombing, with the resulting massive loss of life that would have the effect of attracting the world’s attention to the brutality of the Russian advance and the heroism of Ukrainian defenders. Organizing a fifth column within cities is thus an attractive option for Russian military planners.
And third, and perhaps most compelling is the fact that the most horrific means Moscow has been willing to employ – such as state terrorism against the civilian population in Kharkiv – have been signaled well in advance to all who have paid even the most cursory attention to Russian news outlets.
As Kseniya Kirillova points out in NR2.com this week, “Putin’s supporters threatened terrorist actions in Ukraine already last fall.” Now, one can see that those were not idle threats however often many dismissed them.
The journalist reports that in September, pro-Moscow opponents of a Ukrainian-American march in Seattle in support of Ukraine, said that the West should not be supporting “terrorists” in Ukraine but that if it continued to do so, then “terrorist actions” will be directed against Ukraine.
Specifically, the pro-Moscow activist said: “If Luhansk and Donetsk aren’t enough for you, then we will also organize terrorist acts in Ukraine against you.”
U.S. military combat vehicles paraded Wednesday through an Estonian city that juts into Russia, a symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War.
The armored personnel carriers and other U.S. Army vehicles that rolled through the streets of Narva, a border city separated by a narrow frontier from Russia, were a dramatic reminder of the new military confrontation in Eastern Europe.
The soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment were taking part in a military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day. Narva is a vulnerable border city separated by a river from Russia. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto NATO territory.
Russia has long complained bitterly about NATO expansion, saying that the Cold War defense alliance was a major security threat as it drew closer to Russia’s borders. The anger grew especially passionate after the Baltic states joined in 2004, and Russian President Vladimir Putin cited fears that Ukraine would join NATO when he annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March last year.
Russia’s Baltic neighbors, meanwhile, have said that what happened in Ukraine demonstrates exactly why they wanted to join NATO in the first place.
U.S. tanks rolled through the streets of Riga, Latvia, in November for that nation’s Independence Day parade, another powerful reminder of U.S. boots on the ground in the region. The United States has sent hundreds of military personnel to joint NATO exercises in the Baltics. NATO nations committed in September to forming a rapid reaction force that could deploy quickly to eastern Europe if they are invaded.
Boris Nemtsov, opposition leader and a former deputy prime minister of Russia, has been shot and killed in the center of Moscow. The exact location has not been reported yet, but sources claim Nemtsov was gunned down within several yards from the Kremlin.
Boris Nemtsov was one of the most prominent Russian politicians of the early 1990’s and 2000’s. After serving as governor of the Novgorod region in 1991—1997, he was at one time vetted as President Boris Yeltsin’s potential successor. Nemtsov was also a long time leader of the liberal Soyus Pravykh Sil (Union of Right Forces).
In the 2000’s Nemtsov became an opposition leader and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. He authored several works on corruption in Russia and the enrichment of Putin’s inner circle.
A leading Russian opposition politician, former deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been shot dead in Moscow, Russian officials say.
An unidentified attacker shot Mr Nemtsov four times in central Moscow, a source in the law enforcement bodies told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
He was shot near the Kremlin while walking with a woman, according to Russian-language news website Meduza.
“Several people” had got out of a car and shot him, it added.
Mr Nemtsov, 55, served as first deputy prime minister under the late President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
He had earned a reputation as an economic reformer while governor of one of Russia’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod.
Falling out of favour with Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, Mr Nemtsov became an outspoken opposition politician.
He was shot in the back with a pistol from a white car which fled the scene, Interfax’s source said.
One of the politician’s colleagues in his RPR-Parnassus party, Ilya Yashin, confirmed Mr Nemtsov’s death.
“Unfortunately I can see the corpse of Boris Nemtsov in front of me now,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s lenta.ru news website. “At the Bolshoy Zamoskvoretsky Bridge. I see the body and lots of police around it.”
Germany’s Angela Merkel has said she hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will not try the same strategy in Moldova as he has in Ukraine, and expressed support for the country’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Europe, to Moscow’s chagrin.
The chancellor, asked Thursday at a news conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis whether she thought there was a risk that Romania’s eastern neighbor could be in Moscow’s sights, replied: “Well, we hope not.”
Germany and European Union member Romania feel “politically very closely linked to Moldova” and will support the new pro-EU government of Chiril Gaburici, she said.
Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, wedged between Ukraine and Romania, has ratified a political and trade agreement with the EU, turning its back on a future in a Russian-led customs bloc.
“There are many small steps that show Moldova is our close partner,” said Merkel, citing the EU’s attempts to offset the impact on the Moldovan economy of Russia’s ban on imports of wine and food from Moldova in retribution for its overtures to the EU.
Iohannis said there were “no indications at the moment” that Moscow would interfere in Moldova.
Merkel and Iohannis both said the crisis in Ukraine had put the spotlight on the situation of Transdnestr, a breakaway sliver of Moldova with strong ties to Russia, which Moscow has warned Moldova it could lose if it moves closer to Europe.
Ukraine’s war against pro-Russian separatists was partly triggered by Kiev pursuing similar pro-EU policies to those now being adopted by Moldova, in the face of opposition from Moscow.
British Prime Minister David Cameron warned this week that Russia could try to destabilize other countries in eastern Europe if it was left unchallenged over its actions in Ukraine. “Next it’ll be Moldova or one of the Baltic states,” he said.
The centre-right Romanian president said there was no need for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to take the part of ethnic Hungarians living in other countries in the region including Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia and Serbia.
Iohannis said he was in close contact with political parties representing Romania’s Hungarian minority, adding: “There is no Hungarian problem in Romania.”
A Blog collecting news about Ukraine and Russia…..from Australia