November 26, 2015 / 2:05 PM / 2 years ago

'Putin is not forever', says daughter of slain opposition leader

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Kremlin critics live in fear under President Vladimir Putin but there will come a time when Russia is ready for a new brand of politician, said the daughter of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

“Putin is not forever,” she said in an interview with Reuters in Berlin.

Nemtsov was the most prominent of a string of Kremlin critics who have been killed during Putin’s 15-year-old rule. The shooting in the heart of Moscow in February shocked his supporters and prompted international condemnation.

Zhanna Nemtsova, 31, accused the Russian authorities of a cover-up in the investigation into her father’s murder. She said she wanted the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya to be questioned, but thought it could take decades to uncover the truth.

“It was a political murder, though the investigation committee doesn’t want to admit this,” said Nemtsova, who left Russia in May after receiving death threats and is now working in Germany as a journalist for Deutsche Welle.

Her father, a former Russian deputy prime minister, was shot in the back by assailants as he walked across a bridge over the Moskva River in central Moscow. The murder remains unsolved.

Five suspects have been detained, but it is unclear who ordered the killing and why. Putin has condemned the shooting and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Nemtsova has been unsuccessful in requests to have Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov questioned. Kadyrov, who is loyal to Putin, has said he knew former Chechen policeman Zaur Dadayev, who has been detained, and described him as a true patriot.

“The Russian authorities do not want to investigate this case,” Nemtsova said in Berlin. “These people (in Chechnya) receive cover up. We cannot proceed with the investigation if we receive such obstacles.”

Aides to Nemtsov suspect Russia’s state security apparatus was complicit in the killing. They have been scornful of the official investigation and say that blaming Chechen Islamists is intended to deflect suspicion from Putin, his inner circle or the security services.

Kadyrov has been quoted in Russian media as saying he would be ready to be questioned. He has denied any involvement in the killing and has urged Nemtsova to look among her late father’s associates to understand why he was assassinated.   

“PEOPLE ARE FRIGHTENED”

Nemtsova, with dark piercing eyes and passionate about securing her father’s legacy, said she was cautious in Germany but felt safe here. She gave a bleak assessment of opposition politics in Russia following the death of her father.

“People now are more frightened, because you understand now that you can be killed,” she said, adding that the prospects for the Russian opposition were bad without her father as few people wanted get involved “because it is very risky”.

“It will get worse and worse but at some point in time I think there will be a demand for those leaders,” she said.

Alongside her work as a journalist, Nemtsova is embarking on projects to preserve the legacy of her father, whom she describes as “a real democrat” and “a true liberal”. She wants to help develop future Russian leaders.

“Putin is not forever. He is for a long time, but he is not forever,” said Nemtsova, who has set up the ‘Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom’ in Germany to support research on Russian economics, politics and propaganda.

Nemtsova would also like to offer a ‘Boris Nemtsov Prize for Bravery’ for Russians in Russia who fight for democratic values, and ultimately wants to establish a program to enable future Russian leaders to study in Germany.

She is taking the long view, both in her quest for justice over her father’s murder and in her efforts to secure his legacy.

Asked if justice could ever be done, she replied: “Of course ... It might take 10, 20, 30 years.”

Editing by Noah Barkin and Ralph Boulton

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