Freedom lecture with Zhanna Nemtsova

On 30 November De Balie in Amsterdam invited Zhanna Nemtsova, journalist at Deutsche Welle and daughter of Boris Nemtsov – a Russian liberal oppositional politician who was assassinated on 27 February 2015 – to give a freedom lecture. Nemtsova spoke about her father, propaganda in Russia and the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom. The event, moderated by Kirsten van den Hul, also featured discussions with PvdA Member of Parliament Michiel Servaes and the Insideout documentary team, Masha Ru and Katia Krupennikova.

In memory of Boris Nemtsov

Eva Cukier, a freelance journalist, opened the evening recalling the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, which happened hours after he gave an interview about Russia’s aggression in Eastern Ukraine. She mentioned that censorship as well as self-censorship in Russia have increased and independent media outlets are being shut down.

Nemtsova reminded that Boris Nemtsov became politically active after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986. He was against the Chechen war and tried to bring democracy to Russia. Nemtsov organized two peace protests after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine started. It won’t ever be possible to find out who ordered his crime. Nemtsova acknowledged that Putin is blocking the crime investigation but at the same time she doesn’t blame him personally for the assassination of her father. Between 25.000 – 50.000 people participated in his memorial march on 1 March 2015. In November 2015 Nemtsova founded the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom in Germany – a new discussion forum that works on improving relations between Europe and Russia and restoring the dialogue. She hopes that one day the Foundation can function in Russia.

Russia and the EU

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Michiel Servaes mentioned that the PvdA was the first party to argue for economic sanctions against Russia at the Dutch Parliament. The EU has to deal with Putin but unfortunately the energy dimension of it will remain an issue for a while since EU is not ready yet to completely switch to green energy. Nemtsova noted that the EU doesn’t have a long-term strategy towards Russia: there are only Minsk II agreements and sanctions. Before, there used to be a Modernization Partnership, launched in 2010 and aimed at reviving EU-Russia relations through assisting Russia in modernization of its export-oriented economy with capital, technology and training. Nemtsova told that economic sanctions against Russia are not working because its economy is a market economy with flexible exchange rates, it adapts. She thinks that personal economic sanctions are more effective. Servaes said that, taking into consideration the change in political context of Europe (pro-Russian leaders in Bulgaria, Moldova, Italy and France), it will become more difficult to approve an EU joint policy on Russia. Nemtsova denied the existence of pro-Putin politicians. According to her, Donald Trump is not good for Russia and Aleksandr Lukashenko is not pro-Putin either. Zhanna said that one of the main misconceptions about Russia nowadays is that it’s being identified with Putin only.

Russia and perceptions of East and West

Masha Ru and Katia Krupennikova provided some food for thought with their documentary Insideout – a compilation of eight stories from people working with or interested in East and West perceptions, e. g. esperanto teachers, historians, sauna lovers, etc. In a discussion with Nemtsova, Masha and Katia elaborated on the notion of being pro-European and pro-Russian. In particular, why should fighting corruption be a pro-European value? According to Masha, such definitions represent a continuation of colonization, which spreads to Russia and in some cases triggers resistance. Her documentary offers a glimpse on alternative existence, without being expressly pro-European or pro-Russian.

 

Photos: Yana Ballod

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