Though his mother is Jewish, the late Boris Nemtsov had been baptized by his Russian Orthodox grandfather. As a practicing Christian respectful of his Jewish heritage, he was a friend of Israel.
I recall when, in 1993, our Israel Forum delegation was warmly welcomed by him as Governor, in Nizhny-Novgorod ( formerly Gorky).
In 1998 he joined us, when the Wiesenthal Centre co-organized a
conference on antisemitism at the Moscow City Hall. We met again in 2002, when he was negotiating with Chechen terrorists in the Moscow theatre hostage crisis, and, thereafter, at the World Economic Forum in Davos as more recently at a human rights rally in Moscow.
Nemtsov had become an indefatigable leader, forming the “Russia
without Lawlessness and Corruption Party”.At that time, he was
alleging corruption in the tenders for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the town of his birth. This,reportedly, resulted in an attempt to murder him with ammonium chloride.
His party was refused registration and he was continuously arrested but persisted in his peace and pro-democracy campaigns – most recently criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and events in Ukraine.
He was murdered two days before due to leading an anti-war march and to releasing a report claiming to prove the presence of Russian army forces in eastern Ukraine.
Immediately after the assassination, his papers and computer were confiscated from his apartment. The march was cancelled, allowing in its place a silent procession of mourning.
President Putin condemned the killing and sent condolences to
Nemtsov’s 86 year old mother, Dina Eydman. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theories are beginning to circulate: “It was the CIA, Chechen Islamists, Soviet veterans…”
One may draw certain similarities with another recent murder – of a figure revered by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre – Argentine AMIA bombing investigator, Alberto Nisman. In both cases, gunned down before they were due to present a highly controversial report Police security, in both, apparently disappeared before the killing. Both have refocused public opinion.
There is one slight difference: Nemtsov got four bullets in the back. So far, noone has claimed it was suicide. May their memory be for a blessing.