Observers: one way or another, Putin must be held to account for Nemtsov's killing ({{commentsTotal}})

As condolences poured in from public figures after the shooting death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, speculation on who did the deed also began to emerge.

In the West, most scoffed at the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been appointed head of the investigation, and the claim from Russian authorities that the opposition could have ordered a hit as a false-flag operation to discredit Putin. Some compared Nemtsov's slaying to the murder of Kirov in 1934.

Widely cited Estonan observers shied away from the initial instinct to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin personally, but said Putin had created a climate of terror.

"The primary question [on many minds] right now," said Karmo Tüür, an Estonian political scientist, in his blog, "is: 'is Putin to blame for Nemtsov's murder?'

"The answer that is likely most correct is 'yes and no,'" wrote Tüür. "No, Putin probably did not give the direct order to kill a leading opposition figure. It would not be wise to do it right next to the Kremlin a few days before a rally which would probably have been pretty marginal.

"But yes, Putin's team and he himself personally are to blame. They are to blame for creating an atmosphere in Russia in which it is completely OK to go to war voluntarily against a neighbouring country. That is OK to call for the use of nuclear weapons from a podium in parliament."

Krister Paris, the opinion editor of daily Eesti Päevaleht, also said the Putin regime was at least indirectly responsible. There had been a unwritten agreement to refrain from outright violence and truncheons were used rarely, Paris wrote.

"The four bullets […] destroyed that silent sense of security. It isn't important whether the order came from the Kremlin or the idea to off him sprouted fro general hatred that the authorities have consistently filled society with over the last 18 months. In one or another way, the current Russian regime is to blame."

Killing him in the heart of the city in a symbolically important place showed that the killers were operating with impunity, he added.

A politically active Russian music critic and blogger who lives in Estonia, Artemi Troitski, said Nemtsov's killers should be sought in the ranks of ultranationalists, not federal secret services. "ULtrapatriots feel like they have free rein in Russia, as the country is gripped by paranoia and hatred of everything that varies from the Kremlin's main positions," he told

Nemtsov had friends throughout political circles

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said he had known Nemtsov, who was deeply connected with the West, for years. "I knew Boris for a long time, he came to Estonia often and was an admirer of Estonia's reforms, especially as regards rule of law, which he considered the most important thing for establishing democracy in Russia.

"I mourn Estonia's friend and my friend, a great democrat and courageous champion of freedom."

Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas: "The fact that dissent is not accepted in our neighbouring country is no surprise. Yet every time we hear of bloodwork, violence, pressure and 'might makes right' wielded against critics of the regime in Russia, the brutal reality shocks us. The murder of an opposition politician for us, living in the free world, is foreign to us and unacceptable."

Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar struck a discordant note by likening himself to Nemtsov in Estonia's context. "I take it very personally. I remember working with Nemtsov when he was Yeltsin's deputy prime minister. In some sense I am currently like Estonia's Nemtsov, I lead the opposition like he did, feel similar attacks like he did. I imagine from my experiences how hard it must have been for him."

MEP Urmas Paet, in his own condolences, responded directly to Savisaar's words, calling them "astonishing, inappropriate and false."

Editor: K. Rikken

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