What Russians think when they hear "Putin’s a killer"

Critics in Russia say that, at the least, the Kremlin is responsible for creating a culture of political violence that goes unpunished, where engaging in unsanctioned opposition politics is equivalent to forfeiting one’s right to justice.

“I personally don’t think that Putin himself ordered the murder of Politkovskaya, Nemtsov or even Litvinenko,” said Oleg Kashin, a Russian journalist who was nearly beaten to death in an attack in 2010 that he has blamed on a conflict with a regional governor. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev promised that the case would be solved, but it never was. “But I am sure that he knows who killed them and is covering for them, making him at the least an accomplice.”

The logic is as follows: Even if the Kremlin did not order the killings, who would carry them out without prior approval? Or avoid justice without Kremlin consent afterward?

Putin is “definitely politically responsible for this climate of intimidation, and murders actually happen in Russia because people aren’t punished because he doesn’t address it as a problem,” said Mikhail Fishman, a Russian television journalist who is also the editor in chief of the Moscow Times.