If you're Russia and you criticise Putin, there's a very good chance that you'd end up having someone pump you full of bullets sooner or later.
On Feb 27, 2015, just several hours following urging the community to join a march from Russia’s armed service involvement in Ukraine, Boris Nemtsov a Russian opposition member and Russia's former deputy prime minister, was shot four times in the back by an unidentified attacker in the very heart of Moscow, just outside the Kremlin.
Boris Nemtsov was not the first critic of Putin, or member of the Russian opposition, that found his death in violent "unexplained" circumstances.
Hundreds of people who have criticized Putin and his policies since he took power in 1999 have been murdered or found their deaths in Russia, often in violent or "unexplained" circumstances.
Here are just a few notable cases.
Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.
Markelov was a human rights lawyer widely known for representing Chechen civilians in human rights cases against the Russian armed forces. He also represented journalists who found themselves in trouble following publication of articles criticizing Putin, like Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was slain in 2006. Markelov was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin in 2009. Baburova, also a journalist from Novaya Gazeta, was fatally shot as she was trying to provide first aid to Markelov. Russian authorities stated a neo-Nazi group had been behind the killings, and two of its members were convicted.
Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in law enforcement custody in November 2009 following the alleged brutal beating, having been denied medical treatment. He had been working for British-American businessman William Browder, investigating a major tax fraud case. Magnitsky was arrested after he allegedly uncovered evidence suggesting that law enforcement officials were involved in the fraud. In 2012, Magnitsky was posthumously convicted of tax evasion, and Browder lobbied that the U.S. government impose sanctions on those involved in Magnitsky’s death. The sanctions list bears his name bears his name and has since been applied to human rights abusers in other cases.
She was a journalist who investigated abductions and murders that had turn out to be commonplace in Chechnya. There, pro-Russian security forces waged a brutal crackdown to weed out Islamic militants responsible for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks. As her fellow journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Estemirova reported on civilians who had often been caught between these two violent forces. In 2009 Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home, shot several times, including a point-blank shot to the head, and dumped in the woods. No one has been convicted of her murder.
Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian reporter for Novaya Gazeta whose book, “Putin’s Russia,” accused the Kremlin leader of turning the country into a police state. She wrote thoroughly about power abuse in Chechnya. She was shot point-blank in an elevator of her apartment house in 2006. Five men ended up convicted of her murder, it was discovered it had been a contract killing, with a $150,000 reward. The mastermind behind the murder was never revealed. Putin denied any Kremlin involvement in Politkovskaya’s killing, stating that her death is “more harmful to the current authorities both in Russia and the Chechen Republic … than her activities.”
Alexander Litvinenko was a former KGB agent who died three weeks after he drank a cup of tea laced with fatal polonium-210 at a London hotel in 2006 . A British inquiry discovered that Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who acted on orders that had “probably” been approved by President Putin. Russia refused to extradite them, and in 2015 the Russian president granted Lugovoi a medal for “ services to the motherland.” Soon after leaving the Russian Federal Security Service, Litvinenko turned into a vocal critic of the agency, which had been run by Putin, and later blamed the FSB for orchestrating a series of house bombings in Russia in 1999 that left hundreds dead.
Those are just a few examples of what happens to Russian people who dare to openly criticize the Kremlin's policies, and the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.