An outspoken critic of the Russian president has been found dead.
Boris Nemtsov, who openly criticized Putin’s role in the Ukraine crisis, was found shot to death only a few steps from the Kremlin.
Police said an unidentified attacker shot Mr. Nemtsov four times in the back from a white car as he was walking across the Moskva River just before midnight. He had just left a restaurant and was walking with a Ukrainian woman at the time. She was unhurt.
In a recent interview, Nemtsov, who was a foreign deputy prime minister, said he often feared he would be murdered, that he was concerned the president might want him dead for his opposition over the conflict in Ukraine.
Opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, explained that, “Boris periodically received anonymous threats on social networking sites … Boris was worried. He said he was under threat but never wanted additional security. (He said) if they want to kill (me) they will kill (me).”
Nemtsov, who was 55, died mere hours after appealing for support for a march against the war in Ukraine. The march, which was to be led by Nemtsov, was to take place this Sunday in Moscow.
The Kremlin deflected blame in the murder, saying everything must be done to find those responsible.
Dmitry Peskov from the Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin is condemning the murder and has assumed “personal control” over the investigation into the killing.
Investigators are saying that there could be several motives for the killing including “Islamic extremism” or “a provocation aimed at destabilizing the country.”
Although Nemtsov is the most prominent political opposition figure to be killed during Putin’s rule, other leading critics have either fled the country or have been jailed.
Mikhail Kasyanov, an opposition leader and a former prime minister under Putin, said, “That a leader of the opposition could be shot beside the walls of the Kremlin is beyond imagination. There can be only one version: that he was shot for telling the truth.”
In a statement, President Obama said, “Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled,” calling for a impartial and transparent investigation for the “vicious killing”.
Gary Kasparov, former world chess champion and opposition leader released a statement on his Twitter account: “In Putin’s atmosphere of hatred and violence, abroad and in Russia, bloodshed is the prerequisite to show loyalty, that you are on the team.
“If Putin gave (the) order to murder Boris Nemtsov is not the point. It is Putin’s dictatorship. His 24/7 propaganda about enemies of the state.”