Russian citizens’ observations of the horrifying murder conflict with the Russian government’s official statements.
Boris Nemtsov, major Putin critic and former First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, was shot while strolling near the Kremlin in Russia this past Friday. When the story first broke, it became international breaking news and appeared to many news sources as Putin demonstrating his power against the “outspoken” politician. Meanwhile, many Russian citizens took to Twitter to mourn the death of Nemtsov, making #Nemtsov and #Немцова top trending topics, according to The Moscow Times.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Игорь Титаренко.
The intense wave of attention Nemtsov’s death received on social media showed that news of his murder would not go away quietly. As Moscow’s article continues to point out, Russian citizens were bold in identifying the current political situation in Russia as the culprit. Some Russian users of VKontakte, a Russian equivalent to Facebook, used the social networking site to organize protests in St. Petersburg to honor Nemtsov. Twitter user @RobertBik, as translated by Moscow, wrote that “They have killed Boris Nemtsov.”
Image courtesy of Flickr user Evgeniy Isaev.
Other Twitter users, such as @olgatokariuk, used the social network platform to call out the lack of severity of the Russian government’s investigation of Nemtsov’s death. “Unbelievable,” she writes, with an accompanying image, “scene of #Nemtsov murder is being washed. Kinda shows how serious investigation gonna be.” Twitter user @aleshru posted a photo of the Kremlin’s security cameras that would have captured the assassination on film, though the Russian government has stated that there was no footage of the murder.
These users’ observations fueled the contestations over the discrepancies between the government’s official statement that they do not have footage, and all the evidence that points to the fact that they most definitely should. According to an Associated Press article on Mashable, Yelena Novikova, who is a part of Moscow’s information technology department, verified that all cameras the city oversees were working properly the night of the shooting. A government-owned TV Station offered their own webcam footage, which allegedly shows Nemtsov and his girlfriend walking when a snow plow blocks the camera while he is being shot. It should again be stated that this footage is subject to the bias of the news station.
Image taken as a screenshot from The Guardian’s video post of the alleged footage.
However, it is clear that the opinions of the users is that Nemtsov’s murder was at the hands of the government, or that they are not taking it seriously if it wasn’t. It’s interesting to note that the advent of social media in central and eastern European countries has given a platform to citizens that did not have one under former Communist rule. Though Nemtsov was known for his criticism of Putin, now all it takes is one tweet to criticize the government yourself. Instead of Putin governing over mostly silent masses, telling them that there was no footage of the murder, we have concerned citizens taking a stand and calling out the government, tweet by tweet.
So can social media help solve Nemtsov’s murder? Probably not. Yet, social media can bolster Russian citizens to speak their mind and share their potential evidence to an audience of millions on the internet, without a censor to silence their findings. Even though they will (hopefully) not have to face the danger Nemtsov did by standing by their opinion, social media allows Russian citizens to mobilize and hold their government accountable for its actions.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Evgeniy Isaev.