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March 2, 2015

Russians rally to protest killing of Putin critic

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Boris Nemtsov, who was an influential Russian political figure and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was assassinated on Friday, raising deep concerns about Russia’s future.

Nemtsov was shot four times outside Russia’s most important government building, the Kremlin. Many of his supporters claim that he was assassinated by Russian authorities aiming to silence his criticism of Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had served as a senior member of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s government in the 1990s and in recent years had become a leader of the opposition movement.

U.S. Sen. John McCain said the killing was a direct result of an environment of “impunity” in Russia that fails to hold government officials accountable.

President Barack Obama praised Nemtsov’s work in Russia and called for an investigation into his death. “Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled,” he said.

The killing follows a period of tension between Russia and world leaders over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting Ukrainian forces. Shortly before his death, Nemtsov had criticized Russia’s involvement in Ukraine on a radio show.

Thousands of people rallied in Moscow in memory of Nemtsov on Sunday. The killing marks a “pivotal moment” in Russian politics, New York Times reporter Andrew Kramer said.

“Some are saying this suggests a return of fear to Russian politics, even of terror. This is really a new horizon for what’s happening here,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Russia? What do you know about Russia?
  2. What was the Cold War?
  3. What is freedom of speech?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why was Nemtsov’s death significant to Russia? Why might someone have wanted to silence him?
  2. What steps should an investigation take to determine who killed Nemtsov? What are some of the challenges of conducting that investigation?
  3. How should world leaders respond to the killing? What is the role of the global community in this event?
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