THE violent death of yet another opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin adds another layer of complexity to the deteriorating relationship between the democratic world and an increasingly autocratic Kremlin.
Mr Putin has been accused of promoting Russian nationalism to dangerous heights, to the point where where political dissidents are seen as traitors — the “enemy within”.
Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Friday night just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin, ahead of a march scheduled for yesterday to give vent to the opposition to Mr Putin’s Ukraine policies.
Many of his supporters believe he is a victim of that resurgent and dangerous nationalism.
That position seems far more plausible than the one offered by the Russian Investigative Committee, which suggested that Mr Nemtsov might have been the victim of “Islamic extremism”.
It has been suggested that Mr Putin regards the West as fractured and weak, and the fact that his adventures in Crimea and Ukraine have so far attracted little more than economic sanctions might encourage him in that belief.
It does seem that Mr Putin and his inner circle feel unconstrained by the norms we hope prevail in civilised societies.
The great challenge for the West, and this can hardly be underestimated, is to convince the Russian leadership that it cannot continue to use tyranny as a tool of policy.
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