Boris Nemtsov, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot down crossing a bridge in Moscow not far from the Kremlin.
Nemtsov was shot seven or eight times from a car, according to authorities. He was killed just two days before he was to lead a massive opposition rally in Moscow.
Naturally, Putin condemned the killing — as he has condemned all the murders of politicians, journalists, and artists who have criticized him over the years.
Police cars sealed off the bridge close to the red walls of the Kremlin and Red Square, and an ambulance was on the scene.
“Nemtsov B.E. died at 2340 hours as a result of four shots in the back,” an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said by telephone.
A police spokesman on the scene said Nemtsov had been shot at from a passing white car that fled the scene. The woman was being interviewed by police.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a fellow opposition leader, told reporters at the bridge: “That a leader of the opposition could be shot beside the walls of the Kremlin is beyond imagination. There can be only one version: that he was shot for telling the truth.”
Kasyanov, a former prime minister under Putin, called Nemtsov a “fighter for the truth”.
Nemtsov had been quoted as saying he was concerned that the president might want him dead over his opposition to the conflict in Ukraine. Sunday’s opposition march is intended as a protest against the war in east Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have seized a swathe of territory.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian news agencies that the president had expressed his condolences and ordered the security agencies to investigate. He said Putin had called it a “brutal murder”.
Another opposition figure, Ksenia Sobchak, said Nemtsov had been preparing a report on the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. The Kremlin strongly denies allegations by Kiev and Western capitals that it has sent troops and advanced weaponry to back the rebels.
Peskov said Putin had called it a “brutal murder”.
Like other opposition leaders, Nemtsov was a fighter against corruption. In other reports, he condemned massive overspending on the Sochi Winter Olympics by the Russian authorities and listed the many state buildings, helicopters and planes that Putin has at his disposal.
Nemtsov was also one of the leaders of mass rallies in the winter of 2011-12 that became the biggest protests against Putin since the former KGB spy rose to power in 2000.
A leading opposition politician is killed while walking along a busy Moscow street. It’s clear that Putin doesn’t care who knows he’s a murderous thug. His position is so strong and his supporters so enamored of his leadership that even large protests won’t come close to weakening his grip on power.
The protest scheduled for Sunday was to be the biggest Moscow has seen since the protests of 2011-12 following the sham election that brought Putin back to power. But Nemtsov’s murder is an act of intimidation designed to show the protestors the fate of those who oppose the Russian dictator. Will the Russian opposition be bullied by Putin’s murderous acts?
We shouldn’t blame them if they are.