Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov Murdered One Day Before Major Anti-Putin Protest

Shot In The Kremlin’s Shadow: Russian Opposition Leader Killed In ‘Politically Motivated’ Attack A Day Before Major Anti-Putin Protest – Daily Mail

A leading Russian opposition politician and vocal critic of Vladimir Putin was gunned down in a ‘politically motivated’ drive-by shooting on the streets of Moscow last night.

Former deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, 55, was under surveillance by his killers before they fatally shot him down in the shadow of the Kremlin the day before a major anti-Putin protest.

He had been working on a report presenting evidence he believed proved Russia’s direct involvement in the separatist rebellion that erupted in eastern Ukraine last year.

The father-of-four was shot four times by assailants in a white car as he walked across a bridge over the Moskva River with 23-year-old Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya, who was unhurt.

‘The murderers knew Nemtsov’s route, he was spied on,’ said a police source.

Just hours before his death, Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy radio that Putin had pushed Russia into an economic crisis through his ‘mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine.’

President Putin has condemned the murder and assumed ‘personal control’ of the investigation into the killing, said his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

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Mr Peskov, said the shooting could also be a ‘provocation’ as the opposition has planned a big protest in Moscow on Sunday.

He said Putin had been quickly informed of the killing and that the president had expressed his condolences and ordered the security agencies to investigate.

Nemtsov was one of the organisers of the Spring March opposition protest set for Sunday, which comes amid a severe economic downturn in Russia caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

He leaves behind his wife Raisa Akhmetovna and four children.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin told Ekho Moskvy radio he had no doubt that Mr Nemtsov’s murder was politically motivated.

He said: ‘Boris Nemtsov was a stark opposition leader who criticised the most important state officials in our country, including President Vladimir Putin.

‘As we have seen, such criticism in Russia is dangerous for one’s life. He got lots of threats, mostly via social networks, anonymously.

‘I have no doubt this was a political killing. The only threat to his life came from his political activity. He had no foes other than political ones.’

Nemtsov’s death came one year after the Russian annexation of Crimea in a special operation by Russian special forces. The politician was a strong and outspoken critic of Putin’s policy on Ukraine.

Just hours earlier, Putin had declared 27 February a new ‘professional holiday’ for special operation soldiers in his armed forces and secret services.

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Political analyst Sergey Parkhomenko alluding to this new holiday said that Nemtsov’s killing was carefully planned and a ‘present’ for someone.

‘There is a war going on here. If someone thinks otherwise… we’re now living in a country that is fully-fledged in a war.’

‘Nemtsov’s murder is a terrible tragedy for Russia,’ said ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin, a Putin ally.

Britain has said it will follow closely investigations into the killing.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘We are shocked and saddened by news that former Russian deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov has been shot and killed in Moscow.

‘Our thoughts are with his family and we offer our condolences to them. We deplore this criminal act. Those responsible must be brought to justice. We will continue to follow the situation closely.’

US President Barack Obama has also condemned the ‘brutal murder’, the White House National Security Council said tonight on Twitter.

The White House called on the Russian government to conduct a ‘prompt, impartial and transparent investigation’ and to ‘ensure those responsible are brought to justice.’

Obama said he met Nemtsov in Moscow in 2009 when the Russian was willing to ‘share his candid views with me’.

‘We offer our sincere condolences to his family and to the Russian people, who have lost one of the most dedicated and eloquent defenders of their rights,’ he said.

Police cars blocked the street where Nemtsov was shot, and an ambulance was also nearby.

‘Nemtsov B.E. died at 2340 hours as a result of four shots in the back,’ an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.

Nemtsov, 55, first gained an international profile after being spotted by former British premier Margaret Thatcher as a future leader of Russia, and she praised his market reforms after visiting Nizhny Novgorod where as governor in the early 1990s he led spearheaded reforms.

Later he rose to become deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, but he was always opposed as too Western and liberal by hardliners.

He had angered the government two years ago when he charged that billions of dollars had been stolen from funds designated for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, his home town.

He blamed ‘Putin’s friends’ for the alleged embezzlement, which he described as ‘a real threat to Russia’s national security.’

Putin’s former premier Mikhail Kasyanov, now an opposition leader, said: ‘The comments are very easy: the bastards.

‘They killed my friend in Moscow city centre, near the Kremlin wall.’

He warned: ‘This is a demonstration for all of us, for all open-minded people of Russia. How freedom of speech is finished in today’s Russia.

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‘Could we have imagined an opposition leader killed by the Kremlin wall yesterday? We couldn’t. The country is rolling to the abyss. It is terrible.’

His death was ‘payback for the fact that Boris consistently, for many, many years fought for Russia to be a free democratic country.’

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev warned against jumping to conclusions.

‘Certain forces will try to use the killing to their own advantage. They are thinking how to get rid of Putin,’ he said.

Another key opposition figure Vladimir Ryzhkov said: ‘I’m absolutely shocked. It’s the first case of political murder in many years, a slaying of a politician of federal level.’

The killing was an ‘extraordinary, shocking event.’

He said that ‘political responsibility for what happened is with the authorities.’

Nemtsov had publicly expressed concerns for his life earlier this month and was outspoken in his opposition to Putin.

He was highly critical of the government’s inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin’s policy on Ukraine, which has strained Russia-West ties to a degree unseen since Cold War times.

He helped organise street protests and wrote extensively about official corruption. He had been due to take part on Sunday in the first big opposition protest in months in the Russian capital.

Ironically, hours earlier, Putin had declared 27 Febrary a new ‘professional holiday’ for special operation soldiers in his armed forces and secret services.

Political analyst Sergey Parkhomenko alluding to this new holiday said that Nemtsov’s killing was carefully planned and a ‘present’ for someone.

‘There is a war going on here. If someone thinks otherwise… we’re now living in a country that is fully-fledged in a war.’

‘Nemtsov’s murder is a terrible tragedy for Russia,’ said ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin, a Putin ally.

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Nemtsov’s 87 year old mother Dina had had a premonition that her son would be killed.

He told earlier this month how his mother warned him: ‘When will you stop cursing Putin? He’ll kill you for that.’

‘She was completely serious,’ said Nemtsov, who admitted he was ‘somewhat worried’.

The assassination also comes after Nemtsov criticised Putin in the Financial Times on Thursday.

The politician had said residents he met in a town northeast of Moscow had complained about the country’s economic problems.

He added: ‘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.

‘This is what we need to make people aware of: the crisis, that’s Putin.’

Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister now also in opposition, said he was shocked by the murder.

‘In the 21st century, a leader of the opposition is being demonstratively shot just outside the walls of the Kremlin!’ Kasyanov told reporters as Nemtsov’s body was placed in a plastic bag.

‘The country is rolling into the abyss.’

Kasyanov said the rally organisers decided that instead of the planned demonstration on Moscow’s southeastern outskirts, they will stage a demonstration in the centre of the capital to commemorate Nemtsov.

The murdered politician was known as an economic reformer during his time as governor of one of Russia’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told the radio station that he did not believe that Mr Nemtsov’s death would in any way serve Mr Putin’s interests.

‘But the atmosphere of hatred towards alternative thinkers that has formed over the past year, since the annexation of Crimea, may have played its role,’ he said, referring to the surge of intense and officially endorsed nationalist discourse increasingly prevalent in Russia since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Nemtsov, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia from 1997 to 1998 during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, was sentenced to 15 days in jail in January 2011 after being arrested at a New Year’s Eve protest rally for ‘disobedience towards police’.

One of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders, he was among 68 people arrested at an unsanctioned rally at a central Moscow square.

Nemtsov and other protesters had gathered on the opposite side of the square from an authorised protest.

He was sentenced for failure to follow police orders, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported at the time.

A year ago, Putin had predicted a high profile opposition killing, claiming his deeply divided foes would kill on of their own number.

‘They are looking for a so-called sacrificial victim among some prominent figures,’ said Putin. ‘They will knock him off, I beg your pardon, and then blame the authorities for that.’

Nemtsov hit back at Putin for the statement, declaring:

‘If the head of the federal government, who controls all intelligence agencies, makes a public statement that he has information about such a provocation and such a crime, he must do everything to prevent it and not just publicly scare Russians.’

He warned: ‘If the authorities fail to do everything to prevent such a scenario,’ Nemtsov said then, ‘they will become accomplices in this grave crime being plotted.’

Nemtsov had accused Putin of turning Russia back to the Cold War.

‘He believes that everything he did was absolutely right… he is not critical about himself at all. He says that he is right and the world is wrong. Sometimes I believe that he is mad,’ he said.

When he died he was allegedly preparing to reveal evidence in a report entitled ‘Putin, War’ of Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the opposition Yabloko party, called the killing an ‘act of political terrorism’.

‘This is a challenge not just to the opposition but to the leadership of the country.’

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