Nemtsov's daughter quits Russia amid climate of 'terror'

Moscow (AFP) - The eldest daughter of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov has left Russia, slamming the climate of hatred whipped up by pro-Kremlin propaganda in an apparent "farewell letter" published Tuesday.

"Russian propaganda kills," Zhanna Nemtsova, a 31-year-old journalist, wrote in a column published by Russia's liberal business daily Vedomosti.

"Many of the texts of Kremlin-controlled media recall the rhetoric of African propagandists," she said, stressing that state propaganda played a crucial role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

"Putin's information machine -- similar to those in Nazi Germany and Rwanda -- is using criminal methods of propaganda and sowing hatred which generates violence and terror."

She compared state-controlled media to Rwanda's notorious Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, a broadcaster which incited hatred against the Tutsi minority, saying media bosses in Russia should be brought to justice.

Nemtsova, herself a journalist with Russian business news TV channel RBK, warned that aggression towards dissenters fanned by state media could spin out of control and claim new victims in the future.

"People infected with hatred begin committing new crimes on their own initiative."

- Stop 'information terror' -

"The information terror must be stopped, otherwise its consequences could be even scarier," she said.

"There is nothing more dangerous than the spontaneous combustion of the huge potential of hatred accumulated in Russia society."

Nemtsova's lawyer said she had left Russia for Europe and had no immediate plans to return.

"She's currently abroad," Vadim Prokhorov told AFP. "I think that she won't be back in the near future." He declined to be more specific about her whereabouts.

Prokhorov said that staying in Russia was not safe for Nemtsova, pointing to the harassment of opposition activists.

"Essentially an atmosphere of terror is being created," he added, stressing that those who masterminded her father's assassination were still at large.

In a terse message to AFP, Nemtsova said that her lawyer was right and declined further details.

"This is my private life," she said.

Boris Nemtsov, one of the most prominent critics of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead as he walked on a bridge near the Kremlin in late February.

Authorities have detained five Chechen men suspected of killing the 55-year-old.

- Opposition MP targeted -

Critics say Putin has been steadily suppressing freedoms since coming to power in 2000 but the crackdown against dissenters reached new heights after the annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

On Tuesday, investigators said they had opened a criminal probe into the only lawmaker who voted against Moscow's annexation of Crimea, accusing him of embezzlement.

The Investigative Committee, which reports directly to Putin, accused MP Ilya Ponomaryov of complicity in embezzling 22 million rubles ($394,000, 351,000 euros) from the Skolkovo Foundation, a high-tech project that the Kremlin hoped would be its answer to Silicon Valley.

The 39-year-old, who remains a sitting lawmaker, currently lives in the United States, saying he was pressured not to return to Russia. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Investigators said that they would seek Ponomaryov's extradition.

Activists say the Kremlin is tightening the noose around the opposition, indicating that anyone remotely critical of Putin's policies could be next in the line of fire.

A widely-respected 82-year-old philanthropist, Dmitry Zimin, has recently left Russia after coming under criticism for financing scientific research from his overseas accounts.

A host of opposition-minded figures including environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova and author Boris Akunin have left Russia over the past months.