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Who killed Boris Nemtsov? He was neither a leader nor real opposition, according to Aleksandr Buzgalin, professor of political economy at Moscow State University

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. The murder of Boris Nemtsov, one of the opposition leaders in Moscow, has the Western press buzzing with whodunit. It makes great television. But who is Boris Nemtsov, and what did he stand for politically in Russia? This is the topic of our next discussion with Aleksandr Buzgalin. As you know, Aleksandr is a professor of political economy at Moscow State University. He’s also a editor of the independent democratic left magazine Alternatives. Aleksandr, thank you so much for joining us. ALEKSANDR BUZGALIN, PROF. OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, MOSCOW STATE UNIV.: I’m very glad to talk with you every time. PERIES: I know that there’s been lots of speculations and arrests going on, and there’s various stories in terms of what the media is speculating in terms of whodunit. But what is the more intelligent conversations going on in Moscow about this? BUZGALIN: So it’s a beautiful question, but, unfortunately, I’m not Sherlock Holmes, and I cannot give you the answer who killed Boris Nemtsov and who organized this crime. But, as professor, I can discuss question why we have so long discussions around this person and this crime. And the question is not so simple, because when two years ago–even more now–a very important person, democratic left leader Stanislav Markelov, the defender of many minorities in our country, trade union leaders, immigrants, was killed in the center of Moscow, it was a few discussions, really no discussions in big news companies like CNN or something like that. And when Boris Nemtsov was killed, [incompr.] the whole speculation for–I hope it will be finished soon, but I am afraid that it will be for the whole month or maybe even more. Why? This is big question mark. And this is not an accident. Boris Nemtsov was made by media. He was transferred to the leader of democratic opposition. He became so-called victim of bloody KGB and so on and so far. But in reality it’s not so. I don’t know who killed this person, honestly. And I can comment a little bit what kind of ideas are discussing now in intellectual and political space in Russia. In Russia, he is associated not with democratic opposition, human rights, and so on; he is associated with a bloody economic policy. I told bloody, and that means bloody. It was war in Chechnya. It was collapse in economy, decline, 50 percent decline of gross national product, 30 percent and more decline of average incomes for majority of population, 50 percent decline of real incomes. He was one of the leaders of this shock therapy policy or so-called shock without therapy policy and Russia. He is still associated with these right-wing shock therapy politicians. And he had no support from ordinary Russians and from majority of intellectuals, only so-called glamour intelligentsia, part of bourgeoisie, part of pro-Western liberal political persons, and that’s it–really minority. We had two years ago even more big demonstrations in so-called Bolotnaya Square, so-called because in Russia Bolotnaya means swamp. And this is symbolic name. But it was really big demonstration, not one demonstration, demonstrations. And Nemtsov was among leaders. But for majority he was not their leader. We had different people–red social democrats, center leaders, some representatives of glamour intelligentsia, some persons from the past, like Nemtsov, and he was among these persons, and that was very big contradiction. And, for example, Sergei (spl?) /bɛlsɔːf/, who is now in prison and who is in terrible conditions–he is on the border of death. I hope he is healthy in prison. But there is no big discussions, because he is communist and he is real leader of opposition, among others. And he really requires big changes in economic, social, and political life in our country. And I support big part of his requirements economic, social sphere, and the sphere of real democracy, and so on. Nemtsov, he was symbol of necessity to change economic policy in favor of another type of corporations, not to change in favor of people. He was supporter of absolute democracy. But when he was a leader, it was less democracy–or maybe the same absence of democracy as now. When he was a leader, it was a period of terrible corruption and bloody criminal atmosphere in our country. So he is not associated with opportunity chances for radical changes for 90 percent of Russians. Why he became now so popular? Because, first of all, it’s very beautiful opportunity to make from this playboy leader of democratic opposition. He is a right-winger, and this is very useful for many right-wing leaders in our country, and especially abroad. He can be also used as symbol of a terrible regime in our country. Again, I am–I wasn’t–I’m afraid I will be very critical about policy of our leaders, including president, ruling party, prime minister, and majority of ministers in my country. We have really very big economic, social, and political contradictions, and these contradictions must be discussed. About different versions of this murder, this crime, first of all, I am afraid that behind this killing is money. It was with many leaders of so-called democratic opposition when they became victims not of political terror, not of political oppression, but victims of terrible contradictions inside their /roʊn/ groups. They could not divide money. They had been contradictions who will receive how big money. Nemtsov, by the way, it was not businessman. He didn’t have big status and he was very rich and spending a lot of money for everything. So this is one of the versions, that behind are simply big problems with money, division of money, and contradictions around this, and it was just people who were, how to say, anybody bought these people from caucus to kill Nemtsov because it was necessary to solve this contradiction. This is one of the versions. Another version which is discussed by liberal so-called democrats–but they’re not really democrats, by the way; that’s another story. I can tell you then, if you [incompr.] like Pinochet, these fighters for democracy, so-called democracy in Russia, or so-called fighters for democracy in Russia. But they think that it was organized by Putin, KGB, or something like that. I think it’s not true, because for Putin this is big, big, big, big headache, and of course for him it was not profitable at all to have this person killed. Alive, Nemtsov was nobody. Nemtsov, as victim became, a symbol of–I don’t know what–of something terrible, beautiful, dangerous, and so on. A lot of people are now walking in the streets and with words next me, next I’ll–next person who will be killed, it’s me. So it’s just symbolic game, and I don’t think that this is Putin behind. Also, there is strange versions that friends, colleagues of Nemtsov decided to kill him in order to have this victim, the symbol that it’s a good person, beautiful person, he is killed, and now all opposition will be united and we’ll make something very big and important to change the situation. I don’t think this is true, but this version is also popular. That’s it, really. And generally speaking, for me the question is not who is the murderer, who killed Nemtsov, or who is behind. Main question is what kind of problems we have in my country, in Russia, and what is the international context for these questions, for these problems, for these contradictions. And this question I really want to discuss, but first of all I want to stress again and again we have very important questions, even interconnected with violence. When (I want to repeat again) Stanislav Markelov was killed, it was a few new stations who commented this question. And, by the way, thank you very much dear Real News people that you had interview with me, with other people about Stanislav Markelov. If you come again to this topic, it’s really great. He was real defender of human rights. PERIES: Okay. Aleksandr, thank you so much for joining us and shedding light on this particular topic. And let’s continue our discussion on the economy in our next segment. BUZGALIN: Yes, I’ll be very glad to discuss with you questions of my country and international context of our events. PERIES: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Aleksandr Buzgalin is a Professor of Political Economy at Moscow State University. He is also editor of the independent democratic left magazine Alternatives, and is a coordinator of the Russian social movement Alternatives, author of more then 20 books and hundreds of articles, translated into English, German and many other languages.