Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow

Prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly shot four times in the back by a killer in a passing car.

The killing took place in the very centre of Moscow late on Friday evening on a bridge near St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, two days before Nemtsov was due to lead a major opposition rally in Moscow.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president would take the investigation into Nemtsov’s death under “personal control”, and that he believed the killing to be a provocation.

“Putin noted that this cruel killing has all the signs of a hit, and is a pure provocation,” said Peskov. He said Putin offered condolences to Nemtsov’s family.

Nemtsov, 55, was deputy prime minister during the 1990s in the government of Boris Yeltsin. He had written a number of reports in recent years linking Putin and his inner circle to corruption, and was one of the most well-known politicians among Russia’s small and beleaguered opposition.

Footage from the scene showed police experts examining the corpse of a man, dressed in jeans and lying on the tarmac, with the domes of St Basil’s in the background. Fellow opposition politicians confirmed the news, while a police spokeswoman said a manhunt was under way for the killer.

“He was shot four times in the back, as a result of which he died,” Elena Alekseyeva told Russian television. She added that the killer escaped in a light-coloured car. Other official sources told Russian media that Nemtsov had been walking with a female companion, who was unharmed, at the time of the killing. The woman was reportedly a Ukrainian national and was taken for questioning by police. A representative of Russia’s investigative committee at the scene of the murder said investigators were considering “all possible versions”.

Just hours before his death, Nemtsov had appeared on Ekho Moskvy radio calling on Muscovites to attend an opposition march planned for Sunday. The march against Putin’s government and the war in Ukraine was due to take place in a suburb of Moscow. One of the other organisers of the march, Alexei Navalny, was jailed on 19 February for 15 days. Nemtsov himself had been detained briefly a number of times in recent years for taking part in political rallies, and was seen as one of the old guard of the Russian opposition.

“Today before the programme he asked me if I wasn’t scared to have him on air,” Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, wrote on Twitter. “It wasn’t me who needed to be scared.”

“We will answer Nemtsov’s murder with everyone coming out to the rally on 1 March, it’s the best thing we can do for now,” wrote Gennady Gudkov, another opposition politician, on Twitter.

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Dru Tyler has been a contributing writer for the Pluto Daily since March of 2013. He is also the owner and founder of the rap news site,