Boris Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia‘s role in the Ukraine crisis.
The former Russian deputy prime minister was shot four times in the back by assailants in a white car as he walked across a bridge over the Moskva River in central Moscow, just before midnight on Friday, police said. He was with a Ukrainian woman who was unhurt.
Nemtsov, a fighter against corruption, had hoped to start the opposition’s revival with a march in Marino on the outskirts of Moscow on Sunday to protest against Putin’s economic policies and what they see as Russia’s involvement in the separatist war in east Ukraine. The Kremlin denies any role in the fighting.
Announcing a new plan after Nemtsov’s death, Leonid Volkov, one of the organisers, said: “The march in the Marino district which we had planned – a positive march with flags and balloons – does not fit this tragic moment and the magnitude of Nemtsov’s persona, as well as the magnitude of the red line we have now crossed and which we have not yet recognised.”
National investigators who answer to Putin say they are pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the possibility that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition killed him to blacken the president’s name.
Putin’s opponents say such suggestions show the cynicism of Russia’s leaders as they whip up nationalism, hatred and anti-Western hysteria to rally support for his policies on Ukraine and deflect blame for an economic crisis.