Within hours of Nemtsov murder media had the finger poined at Kremlin
William Dunkerley is a media business analyst and consultant, and is author of the books "Ukraine in the Crosshairs" and "The Phony Litvinenko Murder." Mr. Dunkerley is a senior fellow at the American University in Moscow.
The day following Boris Nemtsov's murder on Friday, February 27, Western media were in a gluttonous frenzy over the tragedy. The death is being offered as affirmation of the nearly-unanimous villainous image that Putin has in the West. He is believed to be a ruthless dictator who will stop at nothing, including the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya, and many other journalists who dared to oppose him.
As a result, media stories need merely mention that opposition politician Nemtsov was murdered and an immediate connection is made in people's minds. It reinforces existing beliefs, even if they were never based on factual evidence.
Some media outlets suggest it's too early to know exactly what happened. CNN, for instance, stated, "It's not clear who is behind the killing." But the network then went on to present an expert guest who said "this points to some kind of government involvement." What was his evidence? He responded that "anyone who gets in the way of the state is killed." The network even replayed an earlier program on which CNN feature reporter Anthony Bourdain remarked, "Bad things seem to happen to critics of Vladimir Putin."
Headlines in the New York Times played to Putin's stereotyped image as well:
--Obama, Kerry Condemn Killing of Russian Opposition Figure
--After Boris Nemtsov’s Assassination, "There Are No Longer Any Limits"
--Fear Envelops Russia After Killing of Putin Critic Boris Y. Nemtsov
Some outlets referred to Nemtsov as "the" opposition leader, as if he were the head of organized opposition. For example, a Reuters headline read, "Russian opposition leader Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow." That left media audiences to assume that Putin had knocked off someone who was his main opponent.
A lot of skepticism is expressed about the murder investigation. Most suggest in some way that Putin taking charge of the investigation is like putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house. Kurt Volker, former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO and now executive director of the McCain Institute told Fox News, "We've seen other political murders in the past, journalist Anna Politkovskaya for example, and the killers there nearly always escape."
Senator John McCain issued a personal statement: "Boris is dead because of the environment of impunity that Vladimir Putin has created in Russia." McCain is chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. James Inhofe, the senior member of McCain's committee authored the bill to send Ukraine lethal military aid. When asked about Nemtsov's murder, Inhofe told the media that he could see by a picture of Putin's face that he did it.
It was Inhofe's expertise in analyzing photographs that led him to introduce his legislation to send lethal arms to Ukraine. He presented his Senate colleagues with photographic evidence that Russia had invaded Ukraine. Unfortunately for Inhofe's credibility, it was later demonstrated that he had used photos of Russian military vehicles in the 2008 South Ossetia conflict.
Was Inhofe being dishonest or had someone duped him about the photos? An Inhofe aid is reported to have explained "These were presented to the Armed Services Committee from a delegation from Ukraine in December." He added they had "thoroughly checked our sources again prior to releasing the photos, and felt confident proceeding because the photos also match reporting." I find it very distressing to see the level of incompetence on which the bill to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons is based.
Interestingly, Ukraine is already playing a role in the Nemtsov death story. The Telegraph reported, "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered because he planned to disclose evidence of Russia's involvement in Ukraine's separatist conflict."
That reminded me greatly of the 2006 Alexander Litvinenko case. There, Putin was accused of ordering the poisoning of Litvinenko because he was about to reveal proof of Putin's culpability in the murder of Politkovskaya. Although Litvinenko lived for several weeks after his poisoning, he never released his evidence. I wonder if we'll ever see Nemtsov's evidence. And if we do, I wonder if it will include Inhofe's photographs.
Do the Litvinenko and Nemtsov cases really have that common thread? If so it would appear that in the end, Nemtsov was reduced to being just another Litvinenko: an expendable human being used to advance someone's unsubstantiated allegations against Putin.