Putin will never fall. He has a cult following among the Russians. The Russian economy and currency was collapsing last year, yet he had overwhelmingly positive reviews from the masses. His image will get away unscathed on this one too.

The murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has horrified a minority of Muscovites, but just a minority. In the 1990s Nemtsov emerged as a government insider, a parliament member, and a deputy PM. He was a member of President Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle but was edged out of mainstream politics after Putin came to power. Nemtsov saw Putin’s policies as anti-democratic, but his criticisms largely fell on deaf ears in the government. His death is still a question mark. The government itself has come up dangerous speculation, that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition itself killed him to blacken the president’s name. Russia’s leaders in response have tried to whip up nationalism, hatred and anti-Western hysteria to rally support for his policies on Ukraine and deflect blame for an economic crisis. The problem is that it is working. Russians do believe in the conspiracy theory that the opposition offed one of its own to gain public sympathy after it had failed to make a dent in politics. The victims of this hysteria will be Muslims, minorities and the opposition itself.

The government’s propaganda machine casts government critics such as Nemtsov as traitors with a pro-western agenda. The people of Russia under their authoritarian government have been digesting such propaganda for decades. They have Stockholm syndrome and want to believe their rulers are kind and merciful and only want what’s best, even when they are faced with the horror of public assassination and economic collapse. There is little doubt that Putin will win another six years in power at the next election, due in 2018.

Nemtsov had said in an interview that he feared Putin may want him dead because of criticism of Russia’s role in Ukraine. The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that Nemtsov had told him two weeks ago that he planned to publish evidence of Russian involvement in Ukraine’s separatist conflict. Is Poroshenko also taking advantage of the situation? Was a grand expose really at hand? Is Putin behind this? What is certain is that Putin demands total loyalty and much of his opposition now lives in exile, pussyfoots around the Kremlin, or doesn’t live at all.