On 28 February, 2015, opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, some 100 yards from the Kremlin. That area probably has more surveillance cameras per square foot than any place in the world – yet by some serendipity they were switched off.
In due course, some Chechens were imprisoned for the murder. Even assuming they were the actual shooters, not a safe assumption by any means, they clearly didn’t act on their own. Yet no attempt was made during the trial to find out who had ordered the murder, who organised it and set up the getaway.
There’s no need: everybody knows the murder had to be commissioned by the Kremlin. That means by Putin, either in so many words or equivocally, along the lines of Henry II’s “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Nemtsov committed a crime for which the capital punishment is the only just recompense: he didn’t love Putin, and he didn’t care who knew it. There are many nay-sayers like him in Russia, but they know how to keep their mouths shut. Yet Nemtsov not only used his for the nefarious purpose of proclaiming his understated love for Putin, but he also encouraged many others to join in.
Moreover, this objectionable individual continues to brew sedition even after his death. Nemtsov screams his dislike of Putin out of his grave, and his accomplices make sure these posthumous shouts are heard.
The site of the murder is marked with candles and flowers. The memorial is a veritable eyesore for the authorities, who are deeply offended by this shortage of love for the strong leader so beloved of Peter Hitchens. You know, the likes of whom he and other useful idiots wish we had here.
That’s why the authorities have had the memorial destroyed with monotonous regularity. Goons would arrive in vans and play football with the candles and flowers. They’d then pick up what’s left and take it away.
To prevent this from happening, Nemtsov’s accomplices in the heinous crime of not loving Putin have established a vigil there, with someone keeping an eye on the memorial round the clock. That’s not the safest job in the world.
For there are enough people out there who take not loving Putin as a personal insult. There are even more of those who can fake an outburst of righteous indignation for a one-off freelance fee, a retainer or, better still, a regular wage.
The memorial guardians thus routinely find themselves on the receiving end of abuse by burly louts unfamiliar with the notion of freedom of speech, assembly or anything else. The abuse varies from swearing (and the Russian language affords a practically unlimited range of such self-expression) to pushing and jostling to assault.
On 10 October, 2016, Moscow councilman (!) Igor Brumel, assisted by a professional thug, savagely beat up the guardian Nadir Fatov. Fatov managed to survive his smashed face and broken nose, even though doctors were denied access to him for two hours.
Ivan Skripnichenko, 35, wasn’t so lucky. A fortnight ago, on 15 August, he was assaulted in a similar manner. A beefy thug demanded to know how Skripnichenko felt about the strong leader. Unsatisfied with the reply, he screamed “So you don’t love Putin?!?” and punched Skripnichenko in the face, breaking his nose.
Proving he was less robust than Fatov, Ivan Skripnichenko died in hospital eight days later. His crime was protecting candles and flowers, and giving a wrong answer to the question that our own useful idiots would have happily answered in the affirmative.
(Preempting pedantic nitpicking by Russophones, the Russian verb любить means both to love and to like. So the thug’s battle cry could also have been translated as “So you don’t like Putin?!?” In this context, it’s a distinction without a difference.)
The CCTV cameras were suffering another malfunction that day, enabling the assailant to walk away from the scene of the crime without undue haste. Actually, there was no need for surveillance. If the authorities really want to find out who killed Skripnichenko, all they have to do is see who was paid to harass the memorial on that day.
The business of not loving Putin is getting more dangerous by the day, and simply guarding candles and flowers has become an act of heroism. Alas, heroes are never thick on the ground, and for every Skripnichenko there are thousands of wild-eyed morons duped by Putin’s brainwashing – and I don’t mean just within Russia.
Those of us whose moral compass hasn’t yet gone haywire should say a quiet prayer for Skripnichenko and, if such is our wont, light a candle in his memory. And perhaps even those Diana idolaters could spare a flower from those they’re heaping up outside Kensington Palace.
Ivan Skripnichenko, RIP