Slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s recently-released report, titled Putin. War, catalogues his country’s involvement in Ukraine. The report claims there are more than 200 Russian military personnel operating in Ukraine. Nevertheless, PayPal shut down an account that allowed people to donate funds to pay for the report’s mass printing.
Gunmen slaughtered Nemtsov on a bridge in Moscow in late February. All fingers immediately pointed to the Kremlin with the Ukrainian government stating Nemtsov died because of this report. The Kremlin did arrest four people in connection with the murder. Chechen policeman Zaur Dadayev confessed, but a few days later, claimed the authorities forced his confession and tortured him.
Nemtsov’s friends stepped up to finish the report in an effort to expose what they see as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s lies about Ukraine. The report states “at least 150 Russian military personnel were killed during a Ukrainian offensive in August 2014.” Then 70 more died in January and February near Debaltseve, which occurred five months after Russia and Ukraine agreed on a ceasefire agreement. The government rewarded the families $39,000 if they promised not to tell anyone. Nemtsov’s report also stated the Kremlin forced the soldiers “to officially resign from the military before being deployed to Ukraine” to provide another shield for Putin.
In January, Alec Luhn at The Guardian published an article about those relatives. Some chose to speak out for their loved ones. The Open Russia organization, started by anti-Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, documents and maps out all of those who died in Ukraine. The list includes 360 people. Yelena Tumanova said the government sent her son Anton Tumanov, 20, to Donetsk on August 10. He returned to Russia in a casket on August 20.
The European Union and America finally admitted Russian troops exist in east Ukraine after a year of war despite piles of evidence. Secretary of State John Kerry even admitted that Russian propaganda about Ukraine worked on him. In June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confessed Russia helped the pro-Russians in east Ukraine. He said the country only sends humanitarian aid, but did not provide specific details. However, one of the rebel leaders posted a picture of the aid and wrote on social media that the humanitarian aid included military equipment. Media outlets even recorded and interviewed Chechens in May 2015. These men said Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, one of Putin’s best friends, sent them.
“The most important thing is to tell the truth,” explained activist Ilya Yashin, who helped publish the report. “The purpose of this report is to tell people the truth. The leadership of our country bears responsibility for a crime. It bears responsibility for an enterprise that has victimized Ukrainian citizens and our fellow Russian citizens.”
On May 14, two days after the group published the report, PayPal informed the company it chose to shutdown the donation account. The company told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that they do not “provide the option of using its system to receive donations to political parties or causes in Russia.” The report’s authors managed to raise $2,000 before the shutdown.
The activists managed to print out 2,000 copies. They hope to find a way to publish more.
“Our audience is the entire Russian people,” said Yashin. “We want to tell people the truth about what is happening in Russia, about what is happening in eastern Ukraine. We want to catch Putin in his lies. We want to tell people that the president of Russia — a man who controls nuclear weapons and leads an enormous country — is lying to the Russian people and to the entire world.”