The Russian President is vowing to find and punish the killers of prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.
The former deputy prime minister was shot dead as he was walking close to the Kremlin by a gunman in a passing vehicle.
Nemtsov was a major critic of Vladimir Putin and was due to lead a rally against the war in Ukraine on Sunday.
A spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, said: “We have several lines of inquiry. First of all, of course, is the possibility that the murder could be a provocation to destabilise the political situation in Russia.
“And Nemtsov could have been a sacrificial victim for those who won’t stop at anything to reach their political goals.”
Nemtsov had been openly condemning the war in Ukraine as Russian aggression and bad for his country.
He also slammed President Putin over his claims that Russia does not have troops in Ukraine.
Writer and analyst Vladimir Voynovich told euronews:
“We can say the current regime contributed to this murder, because in recent times, with the knowledge of the supreme authority, and with its connivance, the hatred of the bigger part of the nation towards the smallest part was promoted, and it escalated.”
Organisers of the planned anti-war rally due to be held on Sunday say it will now instead be replaced with a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov.
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.”
With Sarah Joanne Taylor