Written by: Sarah Joanne Taylor (@mllesaraht)
Russia’s Investigative Committee is allegedly pursuing several lines of inquiry following the murder of Boris Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics.
The 55-year-old former deputy prime minister is said to have been shot four times while walking with a woman near the Kremlin in Moscow.
Some of Russia’s top law enforcement chiefs are personally overseeing the investigation, Russian news agencies report.
“Putin noted that this cruel murder has all the makings of a contract hit and is extremely provocative,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks broadcast by national media outlets.
The killing came just over a day before an anti-Kremlin ‘Spring March’ rally, which Nemtsov had helped to organise.
One of his final tweets was about the event. It read:
“If you support stopping Russia’s war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin’s aggression, come to the Spring March in Mayino on 1 March.”
Several lines of investigation
Interfax news agency reports investigators answering to the president are looking into the possibility his shooting was an attempt to destabilise the political situation.
It said the Investigative Committee viewed an attack by radical Islamists as another possibility, but there could also be links with events in Ukraine.
According to Associated Press, Nemtsov was working on a report he expected would prove Russia’s direct involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Kyiv and the West claim Putin is backing separatist rebels in the region with weapons and armoury, but Moscow has always denied the accusations.
Ilya Yashin, a colleague of Nemtsov in the RPR-Parnassus Party, believes the shooting was a fear tactic:
“I have no doubt that the main objective of this killing was to frighten people, to cause terror and animal fear in those people whose point of view is different to that of the authorities,” said Yashin.
“Maybe they will manage to frighten some people, but I am convinced the majority of people who supported Nemtsov and who shared his position on the main questions will continue the struggle and continue his work.”
Khodorkovsky,"The death of Boris is a sorrow for me and my family. We all loved him. Reckless but a very nice guy."— Khodorkovsky Center (@mbk_center) February 27, 2015
Saddened to hear of Boris Nemtsov's murder last night. He fought for democratic reform and justice for Russians. Thoughts with his family.— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) February 28, 2015
Who was Boris Nemtsov?
Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on Friday, February 27, at around 11.40pm local time, Russia’s Interior Ministry reports.
He made his name as a western-orientated free-market reformer in post-Soviet Union Russia.
A career scientist, he moved into politics shortly after the Chernobyl disaster, when he successfully opposed the building of a new nuclear power plant.
During Boris Yeltsin’s time in charge at the Kremlin, Nemtsov was briefly appointed Russian Deputy Prime Minister.
He was a critic of the Putin government for over a decade. In 2011, he was sentenced to 15 days in jail after taking part in a New Year’s Eve opposition rally.
The co-chairman of the RPR-Parnassus Party, Nemtsov won a seat in Russian Parliament in 2013.
He also co-founded the anti-Putin movement ‘Solidarity’ with chess champion Garry Kasparov. The group’s aim was to unite various opposition movements.
One recent criticism he made concerned the state of Russia’s economy. Nemtsov, a liberal, was of the view the Russian president was to blame for the declining economy, rather than it being due to a US conspiracy.
Days prior to his death, he spoke to residents in Yaroslavl, a town north east of Moscow. There, he blamed Putin for the rise in inflation and stagnation of wages.
“They believed that the embargo on imported foods is America’s fault, and they were surprised when I told them no, that was not Obama, it was Putin,” he later said. “This is what we need to make people aware of: the crisis, that’s Putin.”
His anti-Kremlin stance gained him a number of enemies. Putin loyalists, in particular, vilified him. At a pro-Putin rally in early 2015, several posters bore slogans criticising the figure.
Putin has commissioned a wide-ranging investigation into Nemtsov’s murder. However, in an interview on news website Sobesednik a matter of days before his death, the activist said:
“I’m afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more.”