The politician Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader serving in Russia’s parliament, the Duma, has been shot dead in Moscow, the European news division of the BBC reports.
The country’s officials say that Nemtsov, who once served as deputy prime minister, was killed yesterday in Moscow while travelling around the city by foot. The BBC reports that unidentified attackers passing by in a car shot four times into Nemtsov’s back as he crossed a bridge near the Kremlin, police in Moscow said.
According to the BBC, Nemtsov was with a friend, and was crossing the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge when the drive-by shooting took place at 11:40 pm local time (8:40 pm GMT) yesterday (27 February 2015), said the Interior Ministry. He was shot with a pistol from a white car of unknown make and model. The attackers then promptly fled the scene, a police source told Russia’s Interfax news agency. Meduza, a news website, added that several people left the vehicle to gun down Nemtsov. His death was formally confirmed by a colleague of his RPR-Parnassus party, Ilya Yashin. Flowers were left at the site of his killing on the bridge and tributes to the slain politician were coming in via social media since yesterday night’s incident.
He was murdered only hours after giving a speech offering his support for a march in Moscow against the conflict in Ukraine which was due to take place tomorrow. In his last tweet, Mr Nemtsov sent out an appeal for Russia’s divided opposition to unite at an anti-war march he was organising for Sunday.
“If you support stopping Russia’s war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin’s aggression, come to the Spring March in Maryino on 1 March,” he wrote.
Russia’s controversial President, Vladimir Putin, expressed outrage at the killing of Boris Nemtsov, and condemned his murder, according to a source associated with the Kremlin. President Putin is said to have taken ‘personal control’ of the investigation into the killing, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov to news outlets.
Investigators charged with uncovering the motive for Nemtsov’s shooting have said that the perpetrators may have been attempting to create instability inside Russia. The investigative committee said in a freshly-released report that a number of possibilities are being considered, including that the former deputy prime minister was murdered on the orders of Islamist extremists, but there is no evidence to support any theory at the current time.
Putin’s equivalent in the United States, President Barack Obama also condemned the “brutal murder” and asked Russian lawmakers to conduct a “prompt, impartial and transparent investigation“. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, whose country is currently battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Luhansk (Lugansk) and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, described Mr. Nemtsov as a “bridge between Ukraine and Russia“, according to the BBC.
“The murderers’ shot has destroyed it. I think it is not by accident,” Poroshenko commented in a statement published on his administration’s Facebook page.
While there is no suggestion that the Putin administration has anything to do with Nemtsov’s murder, the politician himself, who had served under President Boris Yeltsin‘s administration in the 1990s, had recently given an interview where he voiced that Putin would have him killed for speaking out against the Ukrainian war, which Russia is accused of secretly funding and arming. Nemtsov’s lawyer claimed the politician was receiving death threats via social media for his opposition of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict and for its annexation of Crimea last year, which brought the country international condemnation.
Nemtsov’s career also included working in economics and serving as governor of the city of Nizhny Novgorod. He fell out of favour with Vladimir Putin soon after the latter was elected and subsequently Nemtsov became an opposition politician.
Fully known as Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov, was born in the Olympic city of Sochi in Russia’s Caucasus region in 1959. He graduated from the State University of Gorky in the field of physics in 1985. After earning his PhD, Nemtsov worked as a research fellow at the Gorky Radio-Physics Research Institute (NIRFI) until entering politics in 1989 as the Soviet era was drawing to a close. He allied himself with fellow reformists in the Russian parliament and soon became a confidante of reformist president Boris Yeltsin. By 2004, and marginalised by the new Putin government, Nemtsov began to speak out against what he saw as the increasing clampdown on newly-won freedoms by the President, and that ‘Putinists’, the president’s loyalists, were leading Russia towards a dictatorship. Nemtsov made his opposition to Putin and his politics very clear. He was arrested by police in November 2007 during one such protest against Putin.
The Russian president himself had accused Nemtsov of being involved with corruption. During Nemtsov’s tenure as director and chairman of a small Russian financial institution, Neftyanoi Bank, which was involved with the country’s burgeoning oil industry, investigators were called in following allegations of fraud and money laundering, which forced Nemtsov to step down from his positions at Neftyanoi. On 16 December 2010, Putin stated, in a live television broadcast, that during the 1990s, Nemtsov was friendly with the billionaire oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who had been sent to prison and who later fled Russia. Putin accused him of ‘dragging around billions’ of Russian oil money.
Nemtsov was just fifty-five years of age at the time of his killing. He was married with four children.
“Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead” – Sarah Rainsford and contributors, BBC News Europe/BBC (28 February 2015) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31669061
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