Russian Opposition MP Reacts To Nemtsov Killing04:57
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Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in front of the Kremlin Friday night.

Ilya Ponomarev, a lawmaker of the Just Russia Party, speaks at a press conference in Moscow, on October 23, 2012. (Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilya Ponomarev, a lawmaker of the Just Russia Party, speaks at a press conference in Moscow, on October 23, 2012. (Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Nemtsov was a prominent political figure for years before his death, as the deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin.

After Nemtsov's death, tens of thousands marched through Moscow to protest and pay their respects.

Hours before Nemtsov was killed, Here & Now spoke with Ilya Ponomarev, an opposition leader in the Russian Parliament who was the sole member of the Russian parliament to vote against the annexation of Crimea.

Ponomarev, who has effectively been exiled from his home country, joins us again, sharing his reaction to Nemtsov's killing with host Jeremy Hobson.

Interview Highlights

His response to the demonstrations

"They were very large. It’s a huge turnout and Moscowites were really, really angry with what’s happened. And not just Moscowites, they happened all across the country, they happened in other countries in the world, they happened in New York, they happened in D.C., by the way, they happened in Boston, they happened in San Francisco, so there are a lot of people who came to express their solidarity and their grief with this horrible murder."

"I’m very glad that [the demonstration] was so massive in Moscow. I have never seen so many people before. You see, Boris was a very controversial figure, nobody had any doubts that he was a very honest, and very straightforward, and very outspoken man. From [the] other side, he was so close to President Yeltsin and was one of [the] architects of his reforms ... so as a politician he was unpopular, respected, but unpopular."

On whether he is worried for his own safety

"I cannot say that I am not worried. I am worried. It’s just that, I feel like that’s my job and I knew what I was coming to when I started this whole thing [in the] first hand and I’m in the active opposition for [the] last 12 years. I actually was expecting something like this to happen. I just was very much surprised that they picked off Boris Nemtsov. I thought that they would pick off somebody a little bit more popular inside the country for this, but I probably underestimated that they really wanted [the] West to be shaken."

"I am not sure whether it was Putin personally, but I am absolutely sure that it is somebody very close to him."

On whether he will return to Russia

"Of course I will. I am planning to go there in May, when the court order against me would expire. As soon as it would happen, I will go back to Russia. I am Russian. I am Russian politician. I care about Russia and I want things in Russia to change, not here."

On why Putin has such a strong following

"It’s very comfortable - psychologically, very comfortable right now, to be supportive of Putin because you feel yourself a great patriot, like Russia is raising off its knees, you know, these kinds of things. And Russians, really, they felt humiliated for last 25 years after collapse of the Soviet Union, so some people actually just reestablished themselves by supporting Putin, but that’s a very short living exercise. And I think a year from now, a year-and-a-half from now, this support will actually vanish."

On whether the killing could have been planned by a Putin enemy

"I don’t think so, because none of his enemies as I know them are capable of implementing such things. For me, there is zero doubt that it was committed by Putin’s system. I am not sure whether it was Putin personally, but I am absolutely sure that it is somebody very close to him and that’s where the organizer can be found."

Guest

  • Ilya Ponomarev, member of the Russian Duma, the lower house of parliament, and chairman of the innovation subcommittee. He tweets @iponomarev.

This segment aired on March 2, 2015.

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