Tag: Opposition

Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov Murdered One Day Before Major Anti-Putin Protest

Shot In The Kremlin’s Shadow: Russian Opposition Leader Killed In ‘Politically Motivated’ Attack A Day Before Major Anti-Putin Protest – Daily Mail

A leading Russian opposition politician and vocal critic of Vladimir Putin was gunned down in a ‘politically motivated’ drive-by shooting on the streets of Moscow last night.

Former deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, 55, was under surveillance by his killers before they fatally shot him down in the shadow of the Kremlin the day before a major anti-Putin protest.

He had been working on a report presenting evidence he believed proved Russia’s direct involvement in the separatist rebellion that erupted in eastern Ukraine last year.

The father-of-four was shot four times by assailants in a white car as he walked across a bridge over the Moskva River with 23-year-old Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya, who was unhurt.

‘The murderers knew Nemtsov’s route, he was spied on,’ said a police source.

Just hours before his death, Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy radio that Putin had pushed Russia into an economic crisis through his ‘mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine.’

President Putin has condemned the murder and assumed ‘personal control’ of the investigation into the killing, said his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

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Mr Peskov, said the shooting could also be a ‘provocation’ as the opposition has planned a big protest in Moscow on Sunday.

He said Putin had been quickly informed of the killing and that the president had expressed his condolences and ordered the security agencies to investigate.

Nemtsov was one of the organisers of the Spring March opposition protest set for Sunday, which comes amid a severe economic downturn in Russia caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

He leaves behind his wife Raisa Akhmetovna and four children.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin told Ekho Moskvy radio he had no doubt that Mr Nemtsov’s murder was politically motivated.

He said: ‘Boris Nemtsov was a stark opposition leader who criticised the most important state officials in our country, including President Vladimir Putin.

‘As we have seen, such criticism in Russia is dangerous for one’s life. He got lots of threats, mostly via social networks, anonymously.

‘I have no doubt this was a political killing. The only threat to his life came from his political activity. He had no foes other than political ones.’

Nemtsov’s death came one year after the Russian annexation of Crimea in a special operation by Russian special forces. The politician was a strong and outspoken critic of Putin’s policy on Ukraine.

Just hours earlier, Putin had declared 27 February a new ‘professional holiday’ for special operation soldiers in his armed forces and secret services.

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Political analyst Sergey Parkhomenko alluding to this new holiday said that Nemtsov’s killing was carefully planned and a ‘present’ for someone.

‘There is a war going on here. If someone thinks otherwise… we’re now living in a country that is fully-fledged in a war.’

‘Nemtsov’s murder is a terrible tragedy for Russia,’ said ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin, a Putin ally.

Britain has said it will follow closely investigations into the killing.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘We are shocked and saddened by news that former Russian deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov has been shot and killed in Moscow.

‘Our thoughts are with his family and we offer our condolences to them. We deplore this criminal act. Those responsible must be brought to justice. We will continue to follow the situation closely.’

US President Barack Obama has also condemned the ‘brutal murder’, the White House National Security Council said tonight on Twitter.

The White House called on the Russian government to conduct a ‘prompt, impartial and transparent investigation’ and to ‘ensure those responsible are brought to justice.’

Obama said he met Nemtsov in Moscow in 2009 when the Russian was willing to ‘share his candid views with me’.

‘We offer our sincere condolences to his family and to the Russian people, who have lost one of the most dedicated and eloquent defenders of their rights,’ he said.

Police cars blocked the street where Nemtsov was shot, and an ambulance was also nearby.

‘Nemtsov B.E. died at 2340 hours as a result of four shots in the back,’ an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.

Nemtsov, 55, first gained an international profile after being spotted by former British premier Margaret Thatcher as a future leader of Russia, and she praised his market reforms after visiting Nizhny Novgorod where as governor in the early 1990s he led spearheaded reforms.

Later he rose to become deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, but he was always opposed as too Western and liberal by hardliners.

He had angered the government two years ago when he charged that billions of dollars had been stolen from funds designated for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, his home town.

He blamed ‘Putin’s friends’ for the alleged embezzlement, which he described as ‘a real threat to Russia’s national security.’

Putin’s former premier Mikhail Kasyanov, now an opposition leader, said: ‘The comments are very easy: the bastards.

‘They killed my friend in Moscow city centre, near the Kremlin wall.’

He warned: ‘This is a demonstration for all of us, for all open-minded people of Russia. How freedom of speech is finished in today’s Russia.

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‘Could we have imagined an opposition leader killed by the Kremlin wall yesterday? We couldn’t. The country is rolling to the abyss. It is terrible.’

His death was ‘payback for the fact that Boris consistently, for many, many years fought for Russia to be a free democratic country.’

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev warned against jumping to conclusions.

‘Certain forces will try to use the killing to their own advantage. They are thinking how to get rid of Putin,’ he said.

Another key opposition figure Vladimir Ryzhkov said: ‘I’m absolutely shocked. It’s the first case of political murder in many years, a slaying of a politician of federal level.’

The killing was an ‘extraordinary, shocking event.’

He said that ‘political responsibility for what happened is with the authorities.’

Nemtsov had publicly expressed concerns for his life earlier this month and was outspoken in his opposition to Putin.

He was highly critical of the government’s inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin’s policy on Ukraine, which has strained Russia-West ties to a degree unseen since Cold War times.

He helped organise street protests and wrote extensively about official corruption. He had been due to take part on Sunday in the first big opposition protest in months in the Russian capital.

Ironically, hours earlier, Putin had declared 27 Febrary a new ‘professional holiday’ for special operation soldiers in his armed forces and secret services.

Political analyst Sergey Parkhomenko alluding to this new holiday said that Nemtsov’s killing was carefully planned and a ‘present’ for someone.

‘There is a war going on here. If someone thinks otherwise… we’re now living in a country that is fully-fledged in a war.’

‘Nemtsov’s murder is a terrible tragedy for Russia,’ said ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin, a Putin ally.

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Nemtsov’s 87 year old mother Dina had had a premonition that her son would be killed.

He told earlier this month how his mother warned him: ‘When will you stop cursing Putin? He’ll kill you for that.’

‘She was completely serious,’ said Nemtsov, who admitted he was ‘somewhat worried’.

The assassination also comes after Nemtsov criticised Putin in the Financial Times on Thursday.

The politician had said residents he met in a town northeast of Moscow had complained about the country’s economic problems.

He added: ‘They believed that the embargo on imported foods is America’s fault, and they were surprised when I told them no, that was not Obama, it was Putin.

‘This is what we need to make people aware of: the crisis, that’s Putin.’

Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister now also in opposition, said he was shocked by the murder.

‘In the 21st century, a leader of the opposition is being demonstratively shot just outside the walls of the Kremlin!’ Kasyanov told reporters as Nemtsov’s body was placed in a plastic bag.

‘The country is rolling into the abyss.’

Kasyanov said the rally organisers decided that instead of the planned demonstration on Moscow’s southeastern outskirts, they will stage a demonstration in the centre of the capital to commemorate Nemtsov.

The murdered politician was known as an economic reformer during his time as governor of one of Russia’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told the radio station that he did not believe that Mr Nemtsov’s death would in any way serve Mr Putin’s interests.

‘But the atmosphere of hatred towards alternative thinkers that has formed over the past year, since the annexation of Crimea, may have played its role,’ he said, referring to the surge of intense and officially endorsed nationalist discourse increasingly prevalent in Russia since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Nemtsov, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia from 1997 to 1998 during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, was sentenced to 15 days in jail in January 2011 after being arrested at a New Year’s Eve protest rally for ‘disobedience towards police’.

One of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders, he was among 68 people arrested at an unsanctioned rally at a central Moscow square.

Nemtsov and other protesters had gathered on the opposite side of the square from an authorised protest.

He was sentenced for failure to follow police orders, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported at the time.

A year ago, Putin had predicted a high profile opposition killing, claiming his deeply divided foes would kill on of their own number.

‘They are looking for a so-called sacrificial victim among some prominent figures,’ said Putin. ‘They will knock him off, I beg your pardon, and then blame the authorities for that.’

Nemtsov hit back at Putin for the statement, declaring:

‘If the head of the federal government, who controls all intelligence agencies, makes a public statement that he has information about such a provocation and such a crime, he must do everything to prevent it and not just publicly scare Russians.’

He warned: ‘If the authorities fail to do everything to prevent such a scenario,’ Nemtsov said then, ‘they will become accomplices in this grave crime being plotted.’

Nemtsov had accused Putin of turning Russia back to the Cold War.

‘He believes that everything he did was absolutely right… he is not critical about himself at all. He says that he is right and the world is wrong. Sometimes I believe that he is mad,’ he said.

When he died he was allegedly preparing to reveal evidence in a report entitled ‘Putin, War’ of Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the opposition Yabloko party, called the killing an ‘act of political terrorism’.

‘This is a challenge not just to the opposition but to the leadership of the country.’

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Communist Regime In Venezuela Shells Peaceful Rally With Tear Gas; Opposition Beheads Chavez Statue

Violence In Venezuela: Regime Shells Peaceful Rally With Tear Gas; Opposition Beheads Chavez Statue – Gateway Pundit

Opposition protesters in Venezuela today decapitated a statue of the former Marxist leader Hugo Chavez.

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The National Guard shelled the Francisco Fajardo Highway with tear gas cannisters.

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The opposition continued to confront the Maduro regime today.

Breitbart reported:

Venezuela is aflame with the fires of rebellion after President Nicolás Maduro arrested opposition leader Leopoldo López and sent communist Cuban forces to assault young, unarmed protesters. Nowhere has there been more rebellion than the western state of Táchira, however, where protesters beheaded a statue of Chávez today.

Táchira, located on the border with Colombia and home to nine universities, is the first state in which the governor, himself a Chavista, turned on Maduro. Governor José Gregorio Vielma Mora said in a speech earlier this week that he disagreed with the arrest of Popular Will Party leader López and that he was “not a part of the regime,” though he later tried to make amends on Twitter with the Chavistas his comments upset.

His comments came after a series of human rights abuses in the capital city of San Cristóbal, where Maduro shut off electricity and the internet temporarily, asserting martial law in the region, leading to some of the most violent images of National Guard attacks on civilians surfacing there. The oversized population of students, proximity to the free and prosperous nation of Colombia, and excessive use of force has made Táchira the heart of the opposition movement in Venezuela.

The civilians, it seems, have had enough. The giant bust of Hugo Chávez that made its home in the state was found decapitated by students today, with the moving images distributed throughout Twitter. The students deliberately decided to cut off its head, rather than topple it completely, and spread the image through social media. “The statues of Chávez are beginning to fall,” posted the first; it is unknown who committed the deed. The image was first published by the media in Argentine website Infobae.

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Suppressing protesters in Las Mercedes in Caracas with water and teargas (Gabriel Bastidas)

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Ukrainian President Yanukovych Signs Deal With Opposition Leaders In Attempt To End Crisis

Opposition Leaders Sign Deal With President To End Crisis In Ukraine – Fox News

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Shots rang out and tension remained high in the streets of Kiev Friday, as Ukrainian protest leaders signed a deal with Ukraine’s president to defuse a political crisis that has left scores dead and hundreds injured.

After hours of European-led negotiations, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed an agreement with opposition leaders Friday that calls for early elections, a new constitution and a new unity government. The deal promises presidential elections will be held no later than December, instead of March 2015 as scheduled.

Many protesters say December is too late – they want Yanukovych out immediately.

Ukrainian authorities also will now name a new government – including opposition figures – within 10 days. The deal says the government will not impose a state of emergency and both sides will refrain from violence.

It’s a “good compromise for Ukraine. Gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe. Poland and EU support it,” European Union mediator, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, said in a Twitter post Friday.

The Ukrainian parliament approved amnesty for protesters involved in the violent months-long standoff, following the agreement Friday. The parliament also voted to restore the 2004 constitution that limits presidential powers, clawing back some of the powers that Yanukovych had pushed through after being elected in 2010. Although Yanukovych retains an apparent majority in parliament, his powers are now significantly reduced.

Yanukovych gave in to pressure from European diplomats, offering concessions – including elections – and promising to invite the opposition into the government, in an attempt to end the violence.

Opposition leader Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok says one condition of the agreement was that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general be excluded from any interim government, Reuters reported, citing Interfax.

Russian officials immediately criticized the deal and protesters angry over police violence showed no sign of abandoning their sprawling camp in central Kiev. While opposition leaders agreed that protesters should hand over any weapons and withdraw from occupied buildings and protest camps around the country, it’s far from clear whether the thousands of demonstrators camped out in Kiev Friday will go home.

One by one, protesters took to a stage on Independence Square to say they’re not happy and didn’t get what they wanted.

A statement on the website of the Health Ministry said 77 people had been killed between Tuesday morning, when the violence began, and Friday morning. The statement said 577 people had been wounded and 369 hospitalized. Opposition sources claimed at least 70 on their side were killed Thursday. There was no way to immediately verify the figures.

European foreign ministers had stayed up all night in Kiev trying to negotiate an end to the standoff, sparked when the president aborted a pact with the European Union in November in favor of close ties with Russia instead.

The U.S., Russia and European Union are deeply concerned about the future of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West.

Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the committee in charge of relations with other ex-Soviet nations in the lower house of Russian parliament, told reporters Friday that the agreement serves the interests of the West.

“We realize where and by whom this agreement has been written. It’s entirely in the interests of the United States and other powers, who want to split Ukraine from Russia,” Slutsky said.

Slutsky also shrugged off claims that Russia could send its troops to Ukraine, saying Moscow will communicate with any government Ukraine has. “No matter how bad and hard to deal with the new government is for us, we will deal with it,” he said. “We must learn from mistakes we have made.”

Lawmaker Inna Bogoslovskaya, allied with the opposition, told The AP that December is too late for elections. “After 77 corpses yesterday… that changes the stakes,” she said. “The Maidan (protest movement) demands immediate resignation of the president instead of early elections.”

Protesters will not abandon occupied buildings until after the constitution is changed, she added.

“It’s completely not enough,” said protester Anton Gusev, standing at one of the barricades near city hall. Referring to the election date, he said, “December or March – what difference does it make?”

At the city hall barricade, protesters were busily organizing stacks of tires. The street was crowded with people heading toward the central square.

Several regions in the west of the country are in open revolt against the central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

In a sign of the high tensions, armed law enforcement officers tried to enter parliament Friday morning during a debate over measures to end the crisis. Shouting lawmakers pushed them out.

The report of a deal followed the worst violence yet in the confrontation between the government and protesters. Demonstrators advanced on police lines in the heart of the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, prompting government snipers to shoot back and kill scores of people in the country’s deadliest day since the breakup of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago.

Protesters across the country are upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country’s ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with the first disbursement of a $15 billion bailout promised by Russia.

The violence is making Ukraine’s economic troubles worse. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Ukraine’s debt rating Friday, saying the country will likely default if there are no significant improvements in the political crisis, which it does not expect.

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Opposition Candidate Demands Recount After Chavez’s Heir Nicolas Maduro Wins Venezuela Presidency

Opposition Candidate Demands Recount After Chavez’s Heir Nicolas Maduro Wins Venezuela Presidency – Fox News

Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has officially won Venezuela’s presidential election by a stunningly narrow margin that highlights rising discontent over problems ranging from crime to power blackouts. His rival demanded a recount, portending more headaches for a country shaken by the death of its dominating leader.

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One key Chavista leader expressed dismay over the outcome of Sunday’s election, which was supposed to cement the self-styled “Bolivarian Revolution” of their beloved president as Venezuela’s destiny. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who many consider Maduro’s main rival within their movement, tweeted: “The results oblige us to make a profound self-criticism.”

Maduro’s victory followed an often ugly, mudslinging campaign in which the winner promised to carry on Chavez’s legacy, while challenger Henrique Capriles’ main message was that Chavez put this country with the world’s largest oil reserves on the road to ruin.

Despite the ill feelings, both men sent their supporters home and urged them to refrain from violence. Capriles insisted on a recount and Maduro said he was open to one, though it was not immediately clear if election officials might permit it.

“We are not going to recognize a result until each vote of Venezuelans is counted,” Capriles said. “This struggle has not ended.”

Maduro, meanwhile, said, “Let 100 percent of the ballot boxes be opened. … We’re going to do it; we have no fear.”

Maduro, acting president since Chavez’s March 5 death, held a double-digit advantage in opinion polls just two weeks ago, but electoral officials said he got just 50.7 percent of the votes compared to 49.1 percent for Capriles, with nearly all ballots counted.

The margin was about 234,935 votes out of 14.8 million cast. Turnout was 78 percent, down from just over 80 percent in the October election that Chavez won by a nearly 11-point margin over Capriles.

Chavistas set off fireworks and raced through downtown Caracas blasting horns in jubilation. In a victory speech, Maduro told a crowd outside the presidential palace that his victory was further proof that Chavez “continues to be invincible.”

But analysts called the slim margin a disaster for Maduro, a former union leader and bus driver in the radical wing of Chavismo who is believed to have close ties to Cuba.

At Capriles’ campaign headquarters, people hung their heads quietly as the results were announced by an electoral council stacked with government loyalists. Many started crying; others just stared at TV screens in disbelief.

Later, Capriles emerged to angrily reject the official totals: “It is the government that has been defeated.”

He said his campaign reported “a result that is different from the results announced today.”

“The biggest loser today is you,” Capriles said, directly addressing Maduro through the camera. “The people don’t love you.”

Venezuela’s electronic voting system is completely digital, but also generates a paper receipt for each vote, making a vote-by-vote recount possible.

Capriles, an athletic 40-year-old state governor, had mocked and belittled Maduro as a poor, bland imitation of Chavez.

Maduro said during his victory speech that Capriles had called him before the results were announced to suggest a “pact” and that Maduro refused. Capriles’ camp did not comment on Maduro’s claim, though Capriles began his speech by declaring he doesn’t “make pacts with lies or corruption.”

Maduro, a longtime foreign minister to Chavez, rode a wave of sympathy for the charismatic leader to victory, pinning his hopes on the immense loyalty for his boss among millions of poor beneficiaries of government largesse and the powerful state apparatus that Chavez skillfully consolidated.

Capriles’ main campaign weapon was to simply emphasize “the incompetence of the state.” At rallies, Capriles would read out a list of unfinished road, bridge and rail projects. Then he asked people what goods were scarce on store shelves.

Millions of Venezuelans were lifted out of poverty under Chavez, but many also believe his government not only squandered, but plundered, much of the $1 trillion in oil revenues during his 14-year rule.

Venezuelans are afflicted by chronic power outages, crumbling infrastructure, unfinished public works projects, double-digit inflation, food and medicine shortages, and rampant crime – one of the world’s highest homicide and kidnapping rates – that the opposition said worsened after Chavez disappeared to Cuba in December for what would be his final surgery.

Analyst David Smilde at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank predicted the victory would prove pyrrhic and make Maduro extremely vulnerable.

“It will make people in his coalition think that perhaps he is not the one to lead the revolution forward,” Smilde said.

“This is a result in which the `official winner’ appears as the biggest loser,” said Amherst College political scientist Javier Corrales. “The `official loser’ – the opposition – emerges even stronger than it did six months ago. These are very delicate situations in any political system, especially when there is so much mistrust of institutions.”

Many across the nation put little stock in Maduro’s claims that sabotage by the far right was to blame for worsening power outages and food shortages in the weeks before the vote.

“We can’t continue to believe in messiahs,” said Jose Romero, a 48-year-old industrial engineer who voted for Capriles in the central city of Valencia. “This country has learned a lot and today we know that one person can’t fix everything.”

In a Chavista stronghold in Petare outside Caracas, Maria Velasquez, 48, who works in a government soup kitchen that feeds 200 people, said she voted for Chavez’s man “because that is what my comandante ordered.”

Reynaldo Ramos, a 60-year-old construction worker, said he “voted for Chavez” before correcting himself and saying he chose Maduro.

“We must always vote for Chavez because he always does what’s best for the people and we’re going to continue on this path,” Ramos said.

The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela deployed a well-worn, get-out-the-vote machine spearheaded by loyal state employees. It also enjoyed the backing of state media as part of its near-monopoly on institutional power.

Capriles’ camp also complained that Chavista loyalists in the judiciary put them at glaring disadvantage by slapping the campaign and broadcast media with fines and prosecutions that they called unwarranted. Only one opposition TV station remains and it was being sold to a new owner Monday.

Maduro will face no end of hard choices for which Corrales, of Amherst, said he has shown no skills for tackling.

Maduro has “a penchant for blaming everything on his `adversaries’ – capitalism, imperialism, the bourgeoisie, the oligarchs – so it is hard to figure how exactly he would address any policy challenge other than taking a tough line against his adversaries.”

Venezuela’s $30 billion fiscal deficit is equal to about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Many factories operate at half capacity because strict currency controls make it hard for them to pay for imported parts and materials. Business leaders say some companies verge on bankruptcy because they cannot extend lines of credit with foreign suppliers.

Chavez imposed currency controls a decade ago trying to stem capital flight as his government expropriated large land parcels and dozens of businesses.

Now, dollars sell on the black market at three times the official exchange rate and Maduro has had to devalue Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, twice this year.

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