Whodunit?

It appears my post yesterday challenging conventional wisdom of “whodunit” was fortuitously timed. (See Rush to Judgment and Extremely Inaccurate Reporting). No doubt the anti-Putin conspiracy crowd will start suspecting I was in on it all along.

Please consider Two Suspects Held Over Murder of Kremlin Critic Nemtsov.

Two suspects have been detained over the killing of Boris Nemtsov, Russian officials said, a week after he was shot dead near the Kremlin in the most high-profile killing of an opposition figure in years.

The Investigative Committee, the state body leading the investigation, named the two men as Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev.

“The individuals detained are, according to our investigation, involved in the organization and execution of the killing of Boris Nemtsov,” the committee said in a statement.

Russian state-controlled media reported the two were from the Caucasus, a violent and impoverished region on Russia’s southern flank. They were expected to be formally arrested at a court hearing in Moscow on Sunday, the reports said.

“I want to believe that these ones are really the ones who conducted (the killing) and that once in a while law enforcement worked professionally and detained real assassins, and did not make a mistake,” Ilya Yashin, the co-chairman of Nemtsov’s party, said of the two suspects.

“The key task for investigators is to find and prosecute the ones who ordered this murder. If everything ends with the detention of scapegoats, irrespective of whether they are the real assassins or not, the practice of political assassinations will continue with no doubt.”

Yashin and other associates of Nemtsov said that until Saturday they had never heard of the two men detained.

Nemtsov was a liberal who had served as deputy prime minister in the 1990s and later became a staunch critic of Putin. He was shot within sight of the Kremlin walls as he walked home from a cafe.

It was the most high-profile killing of an opposition figure in Putin’s 15-year rule.

The killing caused shock among Russia’s liberal opposition, but they draw their support only from the relatively small urban middle class. The vast majority of Russians back Putin. For them, Nemtsov was a marginal figure tainted by his role in government in the chaotic 1990s.

SCRIBBLED NOTE

Nemtsov’s closest aide told Reuters that the day before his death he clandestinely scribbled a note to her about how he was investigating the involvement of Russia’s military in fighting in east Ukraine.

No one has produced any direct evidence the Kremlin had anything to do with Nemtsov’s killing.

People from the Caucasus have been named as suspects in other assassinations, including those of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist critical of the Kremlin, in 2006 and of Paul Klebnikov, a U.S. citizen and journalist with the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, in 2004.

Politkovskaya’s supporters say the Chechens sentenced for her killing were low-level foot soldiers, and that investigators failed to find out who was behind her murder.

Four Arrested

Although two were the trigger-men, four have now been arrested. KP.RU reports Two More Arrested. Details are scant.

Media Myths Shattered

Media Myth: Nemtsov was a well-liked, high-profile opposition leader.
Reality: The vast majority of Russians back Putin.

Media Myth: Putin had everything to gain by killing Nemtsov.
Reality: Nemtsov was a marginal figure tainted by his role in government in the chaotic 1990s. He was no threat to Putin. Indeed, Putin had everything to lose and nothing to gain by making a martyr out of Nemtsov.

Media Myth: (as originally reported). Putin shut off video cameras, and that makes Putin a prime suspect.
Reality: Cameras were operative and that helped track the killers.

Media Myth: Nemtsov’s closest aide told Reuters that the day before his death he clandestinely scribbled a note to her about how he was investigating the involvement of Russia’s military in fighting in east Ukraine.
Reality: Perhaps he scribbled a note. Who knows? More importantly, so what? Why Reuters made a big issue in with an all capitalized  subtitle is a mystery. It is well understood that Nemtsov sided with Kiev in the Ukraine civil war. The reality is that Nemtsov’s position on the war marginalized him and his party.

Conspiracy Theory Number One

The Putin haters will believe this was all some massive, extremely well planned conspiracy in which the police were purposely late to investigate, that Putin ordered the hit because he needed to get rid of Nemtsov because Nemtsov had some huge news on the war in Ukraine.

Conspiracy Theory Number Two

Ukraine, in hyperinflation, having just lost many key battles in the Ukraine civil war, whose government came into power in suspicious means with no one arrested for the sniper attacks that started it all, is behind this mess, needing sympathy from the IMF and weapons from the US.

Conspiracy Theory Number Three

The CIA wants to destabilize Russia and paid for the hit.

Simple Theory One

Someone in Russia or Ukraine wanted to make a martyr out of Nemtsov.

Simple Theory Two

Men from a region of Russia known for taking out prominent political figures had some other grudge against Nemtsov

Assessing the Possibilities

The anti-Putin crowd will cling to conspiracy theory one, and the anti-US crowd to theory conspiracy number three.

I will be the first to admit any of the above five theories is possible. Degree of likelihood is in the eyes of the beholder, but Occam’s Razor suggests simple theories over more complex ones.

Regardless, once again I conclude there is no need to rush to judgment.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock