Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today at a screening of the documentary Nemtsov at the National Endowment for Democracy:

“It’s an honor to be here tonight with Vladimir Kara-Murza for the screening of his remarkable documentary, Nemtsov. Vladimir, you have truly honored the example of your friend and comrade, and your efforts to advance freedom and justice in Russia are a testament to your strength of character and love of your country. 

“Boris Nemtsov was not only my friend, but also a personal hero. He was one of Russia’s earliest and most passionate economic and political reformers, and he never stopped believing that Russia could transform from a communist dictatorship to a thriving democracy. After serving in multiple government positions, he ultimately came to lead Russia’s beleaguered opposition and served as a powerful advocate for the rights and freedoms of Russia’s citizens throughout the world. 

“Even after countless arrests and threats on his life, Boris never stopped fighting for democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Russia. I often think about the last meeting we had in my office. I warned him that Putin was incapable of tolerating what he stood for – a society in which ideals and morality stand as the foundation of law and order – and that he would have him killed. I begged Boris to be careful, but he was as courageous as ever. He told me that he had to return to Russia and continue to fight for freedom, even if it cost him his life. 

“Sadly it did. But Boris was not the first, nor will he be the last victim of Putin’s brutal regime. Putin has been increasingly unwilling to tolerate any kind of opposition. He has ruthlessly murdered his political opponents in Russia and abroad. He harasses and intimidates civil society organizations. He has tried to suppress free and independent media. And that’s to say nothing of the litany of human rights abuses he has committed beyond Russia’s borders. All of this has created a culture of impunity in Russia that is expressly designed to permit and encourage attacks on freedom of expression, association, and assembly – the fundamental rights that Boris was fighting for.

“Ultimately, Boris came to symbolize a more democratic, more prosperous, and more vibrant Russia – a country that respected the rights of its citizens and was at peace with itself and its neighbors. True Russian patriots inspired by Boris’s example know this Russia is worth the fighting for. And I hope Americans will stand in solidarity with those brave Russian patriots who long for greater opportunity, greater freedom, and greater protections of their rights under the rule of law.

“We are now reaching a crossroads in Russia. Over the summer, tens of thousands of citizens across the country participated in protests to demand accountability and an end to corruption. Putin responded predictably with violence, by attacking free speech and detaining hundreds of protestors and political activists. But the demand for freedom and dignity cannot be denied. If we learn anything from these demonstrations, let it be this: that just like Boris, the Russian people will not be intimidated by the Putin regime. They will continue to fight against the culture of hate, fear, and violence that the Putin regime relies on to maintain power.

“It was an honor and a privilege to call Boris my friend. I am happy to see his legacy immortalized in this documentary, and I know that his spirit and courage will continue to inspire all those in Russia and throughout the world who seek to live in freedom.

“Thank you.”