The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Putin loyalist posts chilling death threat to Russian opposition leader

The leader of Chechnya posted a video of his opponent in a gun's crosshairs (Video: Ramzan Kadyrov/Instagram)

MOSCOW – A year after the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the man many blame for the killing has posted a video of Nemtsov’s closest ally in the crosshairs of a rifle.

The 16-second video posted Monday by Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya republic, shows opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov as viewed through what appears to be a rifle scope. Kasyanov said he was treating the video as a murder threat and that he had reported it to law enforcement.

"I see this as a direct threat to murder a statesman," Kasyanov said in a statement posted on the website of his Parnas political party.

In Russia, rhetoric from Putin ally stokes fear of new assassinations

Kadyrov, always a bulldog on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has intensified his attacks on Russia’s tiny opposition in recent weeks, saying that they are “enemies of the people” who should be put on trial. Monday’s posting on Instagram was the most direct, specific and violent message yet.

Nemtsov was assassinated Feb. 27 while walking on a bridge next to the Kremlin. All of the men charged with the killing are Chechen, and the man accused of the shooting itself is a former member of Kadyrov’s security services.

Kadyrov has not been linked formally to the killing, but Western diplomats in Moscow and even at least one senior Kremlin official believe he was involved in the plot. Kadyrov denies any connection.

The life and protests of Boris Nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister and opposition leader addresses demonstrators during a massive rally to oppose president Vladimir Putin's policies in Ukraine, in Moscow, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Large rival marches have taken place in Moscow over Kremlin-backed plans for Ukraine’s province of Crimea to break away and merge with Russia. More than 10,000 people turned out Saturday for a rally in the center of the city held to oppose what many demonstrators described as Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. In a nearby location, a similar sized crowd voiced its support for Crimea’s ethnic Russian majority, who Moscow insists is at threat from an aggressively nationalist leadership now running Ukraine. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“Kasyanov arrived in Strasbourg to pick up money for the Russian opposition,” Kadyrov wrote in the caption accompanying the video, which had received more than 17,000 “likes” as of Monday evening in Russia.

Kasyanov visited Strasbourg, France, last month. The city is a seat of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The video shows Kasyanov smiling and standing next to Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition ally who last year fell seriously ill in what he said was a deliberate poisoning.

Putin, who installed Kadyrov in Chechnya to pacify the once rebellious republic, has not responded to Kadyrov’s statements. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined Monday to comment on the video, saying that “we do not follow Kadyrov’s Instagram.”