Boris Nemtsov is an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin (photo:dpa)

Russia presidential elections: Boris Nemtsov - a key figure in anti-Putin protests

Boris Nemtsov is no friend of Vladimir Putin. He is outspoken and has been jailed for his anti-Putin stance. But until now the Kremlin has viewed the former deputy prime minister as no more than an irritant. Day 6 of GIS’s Russia presidential elections mini series looks at the part Mr Nemtsov is playing in the run up to the March 2012 polling day.

BORIS Nemtsov was one of the young reformers in the 1990s. He served as mayor of Russia’s fifth largest city, Nizhny Novgorod, and then as deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in 1997 to 1998.

Amnesty International, as well as US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, condemned the 15-day sentence, calling Mr Nemtsov a political prisoner

Following the accession to power of Vladimir Putin in 1999, Mr Nemtsov evolved into a leader of the liberal opposition.

Uncover corruption

He published ‘white papers’ on how the national gas giant Gazprom was being fleeced, and embarked on a campaign to uncover corruption at the highest levels.

He was first arrested in November, 2007, having participated in an unsanctioned rally against Mr Putin. In January, 2010, he spoke at a rally at the Baltic Sea port of Kaliningrad, urging some 10,000 people into chanting: ‘We have had enough’. In March, 2010, he was one of the first to sign an internet manifesto saying that ‘Putin must go’.

On December 31, 2010, Mr Nemtsov participated in another rally against Mr Putin, for which he was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Amnesty International, as well as US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, condemned the sentence, calling Mr Nemtsov a political prisoner.

Despite his outspoken critique, Mr Nemtsov has long been considered as no more than an irritant to the Kremlin.

Mass mobilisation

In September, 2010, he and other liberals formed a People’s Freedom Party which sought, and was denied, registration to participate in the State Duma election on December 4, 2011.

In the uproar that followed the alleged rigging of that election, Mr Nemtsov has acquired a new lease to his political life. He will likely be a key figure in the mobilisation of future mass gatherings of demonstrators.

On December 6, 2011, he took part in an unsanctioned rally calling for honest elections, and was again sentenced to 15 days in jail. Following the rally of tens of thousands of protesters in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on December 10, he wrote on his blog that he was happy, and that December 10 would go down in history as the day when the country’s civic virtue and civil society was revived.

Boris Nemtsov

  • Aged 52. Born in Sochi to Jewish parents though he is now a practicing Orthodox Christian
  • 1976 – 1981 studied physics at Gorky State University
  • Until 1990 Boris Nemtsov worked as a senior scientist at the Gorky Radio-Physics Research Institute
  • In 1986, after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, he organised a protest in his hometown which prevented the construction of a nuclear power plant in the region
  • From 1997 to 1998 was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia
  • 1999 - 2003: Was co-founder and leader of the capitalist and conservative-leaning Union of Right Forces party opposed to the ’authoritarian’ policies of Vladimir Putin
  • 2008: was a co-founder of the Solidarity opposition movement which has directed its ire at Mr Putin
  • Dec 2011: accused Kremlin agents of bugging his phone after a newspaper released embarrassing recordings of his private calls. He claimed the Kremlin was attempting to sabotage a mass opposition protest planned for Christmas Eve by triggering internal squabbling among its organisers
  • Jan 2012: The US expressed ’regret and surprise’ over the 15-day jailing of Boris Nemtsov after he took part in an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow on New Year's Eve
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