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Nemtsov Allies Press U.S. To Punish Russian 'Propagandists'

Opposition leaders Mikhail Kasyanov (left) and Boris Nemtsov show their defaced ballots during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Moscow in December 2011.
Opposition leaders Mikhail Kasyanov (left) and Boris Nemtsov show their defaced ballots during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Moscow in December 2011.

WASHINGTON -- Allies of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov are asking the United States to impose sanctions on Russian television "propagandists" they accuse of leading a media vilification campaign that helped lead to his killing.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., told RFE/RL that he and Mikhail Kasyanov will meet with senior U.S. lawmakers in Washington on April 23 to request that eight television personalities and executives be blacklisted under the Magnitsky Act, which punishes Russians implicated in rights abuses.

The list includes news anchor and state media boss Dmitry Kiselyov and television host Aleksei Pushkov, a senior pro-Kremlin lawmaker already sanctioned by Washington over Russia's interference in Ukraine.

"The responsibility for the murder of Boris Nemtsov is shared by those who, month after month, vilified and denounced him in government-controlled media outlets as a 'traitor,' the 'fifth column,' and an 'enemy of Russia' for opposing [President] Vladimir Putin’s corruption and repressive policies at home, and his war on Ukraine," Kara-Murza said.

"This was not journalism or the exercise of the freedom of speech. This was state-sponsored incitement to murder," he said. "Denying these individuals the privilege of traveling to and owning assets in the West is the least the democratic world can do to honor the memory of Boris Nemtsov."

Russians listed under the Magnitsky Act are barred from travelling to the United States and holding assets there.

Nemtsov, a liberal former deputy prime minister, lawmaker, and regional governor who became a fierce critic of Putin and a vocal opponent of Russia's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, was shot dead just meters from the Kremlin on February 27.

His killing -- like those of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and rights activist Natalia Estemirova in 2009 -- underscored the risks faced by Russians who challenge the government.

Five suspects from the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya have been arrested on suspicion, but Putin's critics fear the official investigation may never reveal who was behind the contract-style killing because the trail could lead to close to the Kremlin.

They say Putin and his government share blame for Nemtsov's killing even if not directly involved, contending that they have used public remarks and state-controlled media to create a climate of hate and portray Kremlin critics as traitors.

Putin's remarks appeared aimed to acknowledge the significance of Nemtsov's slaying, which has shaken many Russians and sharpened anger among critics who say he has created a climate of hate, without taking any blame.

The list of TV personalities and executives Nemtsov's allies want to punish also includes the director of the main state broadcasting company, VGTRK, Oleg Dobrodeyev, and the director of NTV, a major pro-Kremlin TV channel, Vladimir Kulistikov.

The other four are prominent TV presenters Andrei Karaulov, Arkady Mamontov, Konstantin Syomin, and Vladimir Solovyov.

Kasyanov, who was prime minister during President Vladimir Putin's first term and is now a vocal Kremlin opponent, co-founded the opposition party RPR-Parnas with Nemtsov.

Kara-Murza, a member of the party's federal council, said he and Kasyanov scheduled meetings with five U.S. lawmakers including U.S. Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Roger Wicker, co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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