Nemtsov: ‘There is a Terrible Illness in Our Country’

Boris Nemtsov. Source: ITAR-TASSOver the weekend, the last of a group of Russian opposition leaders jailed in connection with an unsanctioned New Year’s Eve rally were released from detention. In a blatantly unfair trial, former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and National Bolshevik party leader Eduard Limonov were each sentenced to 15 days in prison, along with several colleagues who received lesser sentences. On Monday, the two held a press conference to discuss the implications of such a dramatic step on the part of the Russian authorities. Their primary message: these repressive tactics are going to continue.

“The government has decided to use administrative violence,” said Eduard Limonov. “It has descended upon the opposition and, clearly, repressions are going to continue.”

In Limonov’s opinion, the trial and conviction of the oppositionists indicates that the authorities are moving towards becoming a fascist regime. “For the first time in history, five opposition leaders wound up in the same detention center,” he noted. “The authorities wavered, but Putin and Medvedev chose the Belarusian variant.”

Boris Nemtsov agreed with Limonov’s judgment – which is significant, he noted, given that the two hold generally opposing views. “If people with such contradictory views about democracy turn up behind bars, it speaks to a terrible illness in our country,” he said.

Nemtsov also noted that the independent human rights organization Amnesty International had declared him, Ilya Yashin, Konstantin Kosyakin, as well as Limonov and his bodyguard, Kirill Manulin, prisoners of conscience.

At the same time, fellow arrestee Vladimir Tor was not awarded this status. Tor heads the ultranationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration, known for its propensity to violence. Still, Nemtsov defended him on the basis that he had not received due process: “I don’t think this is right…he was detained for speaking with journalists.”

Members of the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Russia attempted to cause a scene before the press conference began. Fifteen young people approached the building and began passing out discs labeled “The Truth about Strategy 31.” A fight broke out when they were not allowed inside the building, and police soon arrived to arrest those involved.

Young Russia later released a statement on its website accusing Nemtsov’s supporters of staging the attack and breaking one of its member’s fingers.

Pro-Kremlin youth groups have been known to physically attack opposition leaders, particularly Nemtsov. Just days earlier, members of the notorious group Stal attempted to stage a provocation but were scared off by Nemtsov’s numerous supporters.

Nemtsov described the event on his blog:

When I came out, I was glad to be greeted at the detention center entrance by my compatriots – Sasha Ryklin, Ilya Yashin, Sasha Podrabinek, Mikhail Sheyder, Vladimir Milov, Sergei Aleksashenko, Seryosha Davidis, my daughter Zhanna and son Anton. Surkov’s provocators tried to do something, but were frightened by the supportive crowd and quickly scattered off.

Anton, Zhanna and I then set off for a cafe. When we left, I was again despicably attacked from behind with a butterfly net by Surkov’s cockerels. They didn’t catch anything, the poor wretches, but my children were in shock from the sight. After that, Zhanna said that she would definitely be coming with me on January 31 to Triumfalnaya Square, since it is deeply repugnant to live in a country governed by scoundrels.