5 theories on Nemtsov killing

Story highlights

  • Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed last month
  • Jill Dougherty: Conspiracy theories about the killing are rife, but none seem convincing

Jill Dougherty is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. She is a former CNN correspondent who spent almost a decade as the network's Moscow bureau chief and correspondent. She is writing a book about Russian President Vladimir Putin. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN)Russian police moved with surprising speed to arrest five suspects, all of them Chechens, in the killing of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov. They tried to arrest a sixth suspect, but he reportedly threw a grenade at the arresting officers and then blew himself up. Yet that speed has only raised more questions about who wanted Nemtsov dead -- and why?

Conspiracy theories are rife, but so far, none seem totally convincing.
• The Kremlin did it. Some members of Russia's opposition -- and Nemtsov's daughter -- are convinced Russia's government was behind Nemtsov's killing. But why? And why now? Nemtsov, 55, had been an opposition leader for years and had recently been overshadowed by younger members of the opposition such as Alexey Navalny. So killing him now doesn't seem to make sense.
    Some of Nemtsov's supporters claim he had become a bigger threat to the Kremlin, pointing to information he was allegedly uncovering on Russia's military role in Ukraine that could undermine the Kremlin's claims that its forces fighting in Ukraine have been just "volunteers." But the dramatic staging of the killing -- he was shot in the back on a famous Moscow bridge against the backdrop of Red Square and the Kremlin, where Putin has his office -- seems a bit too obvious. And how exactly does it help Putin to look like a killer?
    • The West did it. Some Russian politicians and media personalities close to the Kremlin charge that Putin's foes in the West orchestrated the killing to damage the Russian President's image and ignite a civil war in Russia. But why would Washington want to destroy someone who was championing democracy and who is friendly to the United States? (Conspiracy theorists reply: to create a "sacrificial lamb" and blame the slaughter on Putin.)
    • It was the Chechens.