There has been no shortage of rumours and theories swirling around the Kremlin over the past two weeks centered around Russian President Vladimir Putin.
No images of Putin have been released to the public since March 5, an uncommonly long absence from the spotlight for Moscow’s demagogic leader. Putin’s exit from the public has stirred rumours of ill health and possible death across the Russian blogosphere.
However, there may be a more realistic reason for his disappearance — the February 27 assassination of prominent Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
“He’s also dealing with a significant internal challenge: It’s extremely unlikely he ordered Nemtsov’s killing, but it was clearly an inside job,” Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told Business Insider. “Dealing with that is surely his top priority.”
Nemtsov was gunned down within sight of the Kremlin’s walls in Moscow. The assassination has triggered rumours that Russia’s political elite may be fracturing in response to the killing. Putin could be struggling to contain the fissures growing within his government.
There are rumours and speculation that Nemtsov’s assassination may have been intended as a threat to Putin by a group within his government as part of a power play.
“I think that perhaps Putin, even completely sincerely, was bewildered and even afraid,” Vadim Prokhorov, Nemtsov’s lawyer, told Reuters on February 27. “Because if you can do that next to the Kremlin, then is it not possible to do it along the route of the (presidential) motorcade?”
One of the leading theories into the murder blames the assassination on five Muslims from the Caucasus who were reportedly infuriated by Nemtsov’s support for Charlie Hebdo. Of those five, one, Zaur Dadayev, was a senior police officer from Chechnya.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called Dadayev a “true patriot of Russia” after he was arrested for the murder. Kadyrov, a former Chechen warlord with strong ties to the Kremlin, gained power after he helped Moscow put down an insurgency in the region. In response, Putin gave Kadyrov semi-autonomy to rule Chechnya as he saw fit.
This arrangement has proved fruitful for both Kadyrov and Putin. However, there are theories that Kadyrov may have over played his hand — Chechens with links to the regions intelligence services have frequently been arrested in high profile murders throughout Russia.
Reuters also reports that Kadyrov often is at odds with Russia’s internal security services. Both blocks hold substantial sway within the Kremlin.
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