06MOSCOW1083, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BORIS NEMTSOV REJOINS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW1083 2006-02-03 13:13 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5363
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1083/01 0341313
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031313Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0245
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001083 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON PINR RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BORIS NEMTSOV REJOINS 
THE POLITICAL FRAY, BUT KREMLIN PRESSURE LIKELY 
 
 
Classified By: A/POL Bruce Donahue. Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Boris Nemtsov, erstwhile co-leader of the 
Union of Right Forces (SPS), will head an SPS committee 
charged with forging a permanent alliance among democratic 
opposition forces.  News of the appointment came January 28, 
just a day before GOR officials charged Nemtsov's former 
business partner, Igor Linshits, President of the Neftyanoy 
Bank, with illegal business practices and money laundering. 
Nemtsov told us the campaign against Neftyanoy was a clear 
warning from the Kremlin to avoid engaging in political 
activities.  Undaunted thus far, Nemtsov acknowledged that 
the task of uniting the democratic opposition would be 
difficult in the face of continued Kremlin pressure.  From 
another corner of the democratic camp, Konstantin Lazarev of 
the Our Choice political council, told us separately that it 
was increasingly likely that his beleaguered party would 
throw in its lot with former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. 
 END SUMMARY. 
. 
--------------------------------------------- 
NEMTSOV PICKS UP THE POLITICAL GAUNTLET AGAIN 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Boris Nemtsov, erstwhile co-leader of the SPS, former 
Deputy Prime Minister during the Yeltsin era and, more 
recently, advisor to Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, has 
agreed to head an SPS committee tasked with exploring options 
for uniting democratic opposition forces.  A senior official 
from Yabloko welcomed the announcement but otherwise the news 
failed to generate any significant media interest.  In a 
January 30 meeting, Nemtsov acknowledged to us that the 
effort would be difficult but outlined a basic strategy he 
thought would resonate positively among Russians.  In his 
view, the democrats' message had been too negative.  In 
particular, democrats had been far too critical of President 
Putin, whom the great majority of Russians genuinely admired 
and respected.  Although Nemtsov claimed that the democratic 
opposition collectively might be able to garner 15-20 percent 
in popular support despite its negative message, he theorized 
that it could increase this figure substantially with an 
ambitious, attention-grabbing program that did not directly 
attack the government or senior officials.  Nemtsov said his 
fundamental challenge was to persuade other opposition 
members to "think big." 
 
3.  (C) As part of the opposition's alternative program, 
Nemtsov said he wanted to advance a pro-EU, pro-NATO course 
for the country, including eventual membership in both 
organizations, while also espousing a strategy that dealt 
with many of the anxieties of average Russians, including 
fear of Islamic extremism (but not Muslims in general) and 
Chinese encroachments upon Russia's economic and, perhaps, 
territorial interests.  Such a program reflected the 
pro-Western outlook of most Russians, as well as their desire 
to be perceived as a respected member of the European 
community.  The key, Nemtsov argued, was to present this 
strategy as the only viable choice for Russia.  Even if 
Russia did not join the EU or NATO in the next 15 years, he 
reasoned, the country would undergo significant, positive 
change as it moved toward these goals.  He cited the example 
of Turkey as a nation that had transformed itself in its 
quest to become a member of the EU. 
. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
KREMLIN UNLIKELY TO AGREE WITH PRO-WESTERN APPROACH 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
4.  (C) Nemtsov said Kremlin officials would oppose this tack 
and would continue to apply pressure more broadly on him and 
his associates.  He recounted events surrounding a raid on 
the Neftyanoy Bank in mid-December, which he described as a 
Kremlin warning to the bank's principal officers, including 
Nemtsov and Igor Linshits, to avoid engaging in political 
activities.  Nemtsov said 200 personnel had been involved in 
the raid.  He had immediately telephoned Vladislav Surkov, 
Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration (PA), who 
initially indicated that the raid's purpose was strictly law 
enforcement.  However, according to Nemtsov, Surkov called 
back a few days later to say that the incident was 
"political" because of Nemtsov's association with liberal 
political figures, including Yushchenko.  In response to 
Surkov's suggestion that Nemtsov's resignation from his post 
as bank director would "help resolve the case," Nemtsov 
resigned from the position, mainly to protect Linshits and 
the bank from prosecution. 
 
5.  (C) Nonetheless, the GOR subsequently filed charges 
against Linshits for illegal business practices and money 
laundering.  Nemtsov told us Linshits had taken refuge 
temporarily in Munich but would probably wind up in Israel to 
 
MOSCOW 00001083  002 OF 002 
 
 
avoid extradition.  Nemtsov added that in a January 25 
meeting Surkov had given no hint that charges against 
Linshits would be filed.  He said he b
elieved that Surkov's 
PA colleague, Igor Sechin, had given the orders for the 
campaign against Neftyanoy, but he declined to say how or why 
he thought so. 
 
6.  (C) Speaking more broadly on Kremlin affairs, Nemtsov: 
 
-- Described Putin as competent but paranoid.  The President 
was not concerned about domestic issues since virtually all 
opposition in the country had been eliminated.  The business 
community, too, was "tamed" and obedient to the Kremlin. 
Putin paid considerable attention to global public opinion, 
but he relied on his close, personal relationships with world 
leaders, including President George Bush, to mitigate 
criticism, as well as to avoid taking action unless 
absolutely forced. 
 
-- Concluded that the British were chosen as the focus of the 
recent spy scandal because of HMG's refusal to extradite 
businessman and political activist Boris Berezovskiy and 
Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev.  Putin had pleaded for their 
extradition in a meeting last October with PM Tony Blair, 
promising "anything in return." 
 
-- Speculated that the Kremlin would step up pressure against 
Rodina and its leader, Dmitriy Rogozin.  Putin was genuinely 
concerned about the rise of nationalism and xenophobia in the 
country and recognized the attraction -- and danger -- of 
popular themes like "Russia for the Russians" and "Kill All 
the Oligarchs."  Putin viewed Rogozin as a charismatic 
opponent who was capable of exploiting such sentiments 
successfully.  Although the Kremlin had created Rodina, it 
could also destroy it. 
. 
------------------------------ 
OUR CHOICE FALLS ON HARD TIMES 
------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C) Elsewhere in the democratic opposition ranks, the Our 
Choice party is struggling to remain intact, according to a 
member of the party's national political council, Konstantin 
Lazarev.  He told us last week that the party, with an 
estimated current membership of 40,000, might not succeed in 
meeting the minimum membership requirements for registration. 
 Lazarev said Our Choice was considering joining forces with 
former PM Mikhail Kasyanov in a move that, among other 
things, would take advantage of the close ties between 
Kasyanov and party leader Irina Khakamada.  He added that Our 
Choice possessed a superior organizational network, 
particularly outside of Moscow, that would benefit Kasyanov. 
. 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8.  (C) It is not inconceivable that the raid on Neftyanoy 
was indeed part of the GOR's campaign to clean up dirty 
banks.  If, however, Nemtsov is correct in his assessment of 
the political motivation behind the Neftyanoy campaign, he 
would join a growing list of personalities targeted by the 
Kremlin mainly for their political activities -- Berezovskiy, 
former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, and Kasyanov.  In 
addition to the effect such pressure has on Nemtsov's 
personal and business interests, it will likely torpedo 
Nemtsov's effort to unite the democratic opposition even 
before it has a chance to get underway. 
 
9.  (C) Nemtsov also realizes that his association with the 
Yeltsin era will probably limit support for any initiative 
with his name on it, and he is counting on the next 
generation of politicians to carry the liberal banner.  Among 
them is his own daughter, who competed in the Moscow Duma 
election last December and was selected along with other 
young politicians and activists to meet with visiting German 
Chancellor Angela Merkel last month. 
BURNS

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