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‘It’s not our war — it’s Putin’s war’ What would Boris Nemtsov say about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? We don’t have to wonder.

Source: Meduza
Evgeny Feldman

On February 27, 2015, politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered in the center of Moscow. In the final years of his life, he advocated against the military conflict in East Ukraine, vocally supported the 2014 Maidan Revolution, and frequently gave interviews with Ukrainian journalists. In the months leading up to his murder, Nemtsov was working on a report about Russian military intervention titled “Putin: War,” which was posthumously published by his colleagues. To mark the anniversary of his murder, Meduza is publishing some of the anti-war statements Nemtsov made in the months leading up to his death.

‘I’m rooting for you all. Because Ukraine’s success is a chance for Russia’

July 4, 2014. From an interview with Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon.

We’re the two big Slavic countries. If one of us — Ukraine — manages to become European, it will be a beacon, a guiding star, for those of us in Russia. We’ll be able to say [to those in power]: “We’ve had it with your miserable, corrupt Byzantium. Your iron curtains, your aggression, your hatred of all living things. Here you sit with your riot police and your batons — while over there is Kyiv! The capital of Kyivan Rus’.

‘We don’t have the right to behave this way’

March 15, 2014. From a speech given at the anti-war March for Peace protest rally in Moscow.

Throughout this event, people have been asking me: why did you come to this march? Because I’m a patriot of my country, because I oppose the war. I don’t want to see soldiers from Moscow, Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod returning in body bags. Our mothers, wives, and children crying — I don’t want that. I don’t believe we have the right to behave this way towards a friendly country. It’s impudent and vile. And most of all, it will hurt Russia.

[...]

We must say no to war. We must call for an end to this senile insanity. We must demand a Russia and a Ukraine without Putin. Glory to Russia! Glory to Ukraine!

‘You’re fighting and dying for them, not for Russia’

August 29, 2014. From an address to Russian soldiers.

At any moment, they can send you — and some have already been sent — to fight with Ukraine. As commander-in-chief, Putin knows very well that involving our armed forces in combat operations in eastern Ukraine is illegal. He doesn’t have a mandate for war, nor does he have the Federation Council’s permission to send our military abroad.

That’s exactly why you’re fighting without any distinguishing marks and all of your military vehicles have their identification signs blacked out. It’s why he’s lying and saying you were only in Luhansk and Donetsk regions because you got lost. It’s why your comrades from the 76th Guards Air Assault Division Leonid Kichatkin and Alexander Osipov were secretly buried in a cemetery in Pskov, and their relatives are afraid that if they tell the truth, they’ll lose their benefits. It’s precisely because your participation in this war is illegal that you and your families are powerless. Putin and his commander are ready to abandon you at any moment — they’ll say they didn’t send you to war, and, if something happens to you, your relatives will never find the truth.

You took an oath to protect the Motherland from enemies — not to fight our Orthodox Ukrainian brothers. The war with Ukraine is a crime with no statute of limitations. This war plays right into the hands of Russia’s enemies. It’s not your war. It’s not our war. It’s Putin’s war for power and money. And it’s the war of his billionaire-accomplices.

Remember: you’re fighting and dying for them, not for Russia.

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‘I’m panicking — where is my child?’ Conscript soldiers are being sent to fight against Ukraine, their relatives say. Here’s what their families told Meduza.

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‘I’m panicking — where is my child?’ Conscript soldiers are being sent to fight against Ukraine, their relatives say. Here’s what their families told Meduza.

‘Everyone responsible for organizing the war in Ukraine must answer for their crimes’

December 12, 2014. Boris Nemtsov took part in the drafting and signing of this resolution for the all-Russian March for Peace.

We, citizens of Russia, patriots of our Motherland, who respect the democratic values enshrined in our Constitution, consider the criminal aggression being carried out by our political leadership against a neighboring sovereign state to be unacceptable and destructive for our country and its people.

We demand:

  1. An end to this aggressive venture: our leaders must remove Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and end the propaganda, material, and military support to the separatists in southeastern Ukraine;
  2. A criminal investigation into the facts of the authorities’ illegal coercion of Russian troops to participate in combat in southeastern Ukraine, which has caused many of them serious injury or even death;
  3. An end to the lies and propagandistic hysteria on state television channels, an end to the defamation and persecution of citizens who publicly condemn the aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea as a “fifth column,” and for them to be allowed to freely express and defend their perspective in the media;
  4. An end to the passing of, and the repeal of the already-passed, so-called anti-sanctions measures, which have led to a sharp rise in food prices and curtailed citizens’ rights and consumer choice.
  5. An end to the trade and gas war against Ukraine.

[...]

We believe that everyone responsible for organizing the war in Ukraine must answer for their crimes before both the national and international courts.

Boris Nemtsov at the March for Peace protest rally against the war in Ukraine. September 21, 2014
Ilya Pitalev / TASS

‘This isn’t a war between Russia and Ukraine. I don’t believe in that definition. This war belongs to Putin’

September 3, 2014. From an interview with Radio Svoboda.

Why am I against the war with Ukraine? I don’t want people to die. I don’t want Russians to die, I don’t want Ukrainians to die. I don’t want there to be any refugees, but their number is approaching a million. They’re not just in Rostov and Kuban. They’re in the Yaroslavl region and in Moscow.

I consider Putin’s war against Ukraine to be the most serious of crimes. I want to say right away: this isn’t a war between Russia and Ukraine. I don’t believe in that definition. This war belongs to Putin. It’s an absolutely cynical, deceitful, bloody, and fratricidal war against our brothers in Ukraine.

Why he’s waging this war is no mystery. Everything he’s doing, both inside and outside of the country, has a single aim; to maintain power at any cost. This time, that cost is life. By sending regular military units, he’s committed a crime. [...] A crime with no statute of limitations.

‘Putin launched an insane, aggressive policy of war’

February 27, 2015. His final on-air appearance — about his plans to hold an anti-crisis march — with the radio station Ekho Moskvy, three and a half hours before his murder

[Our] core political demand is an immediate end to the war with Ukraine. The primary reason for the crisis is that Putin launched a war policy that’s insane, aggressive, and deadly for our country and many of its citizens. The presence of Russian troops there is documented and proven.

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The past is a foreign country A look back at the Moscow protests of December 2011 and what’s become of their leaders, 10 years later

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The past is a foreign country A look back at the Moscow protests of December 2011 and what’s become of their leaders, 10 years later

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Excerpts selected by Konstantin Valyakin

Translation by Sam Breazeale