Senators have introduced a resolution not just honoring slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov but pressing the Obama administration to back anti-Putin activists and add more Russian officials to Magnitsky Law sanctions.
Nemtsov was shot to death Friday night just steps from the Kremlin and Red Square as he crossed a Moscow bridge.
“Vladimir Putin instructed the heads of the Russian Investigative Committee, Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service to form an investigative group and keep the course of the investigation into the crime under personal control,” the Kremlin said in a statement Saturday.
“The President stated that this cruel murder has all the makings of a contract crime and is absolutely provocative in nature. Vladimir Putin expressed his deep condolences to the family and friends of the tragically deceased Boris Nemtsov.”
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) rallied 15 co-sponsors for the resolution calling for a speedy and thorough investigation of Nemtsov’s murder and details a short history of Putin opponents who wound up dead.
It recognizes the “courageous work” of Nemtsov and encourages the release of “all surveillance tapes” around the crime scene from “different sources and angles.”
It asks Obama to add to the Magnitsky list, which sanctions Russian officials engaged in human rights violations, names that had previously been suggested by Nemtsov. It also asks the president to send a high-level delegation to Nemtsov’s funeral.
It further asks Obama to “significantly increase” U.S. government support for “like-minded partners in the Russian Federation and the region to combat the flow of propaganda and the climate of hatred created by President Putin.”
“Boris Nemtsov was the definition of courage. I was honored to know him and bear witness to his defense of his beloved Russia. He stood up for the most basic right of expressing public dissent. His killing is shocking and outrageous to the civilized world but, sadly, not unexpected in Putin’s Russia today,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who championed the Magnitsky law named after Russian attorney and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody.
“At the Helsinki Commission, we rely greatly on the personal testimony of people like Mr. Nemtsov who have direct experience and expertise on their own country’s compliance – and noncompliance — with international human rights commitments,” Cardin added. “These individuals should be able to speak the truth here, and in their home countries, without fear of violent retribution.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), another co-sponsor, said Nemtsov’s murder is “another tragic reminder of how far off the path towards a free and open society Russia has fallen.”
“The world deserves a full account of the circumstances surrounding his death, and not just a sham hunt for the ‘real killer’ orchestrated out of the Kremlin,” Gardner said.
“A clear message must be sent to the Russian people from the people of the United States: We mourn the loss of this great humanitarian activist, we hear your calls for freedom and liberty, and we are forever your ally in the fight for a more just, open, and democratic society.”
Pressed on the Nemtsov murder, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “we’ll see” if there’s a real investigation into the slaying of Putin’s foe.
“Well, given the stature that Mr. Nemtsov had attained, primarily because of his advocacy for the rights of the Russian people, that if ever there were a situation in which a prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation were warranted, this is certainly it,” Earnest said.