Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated last night in Moscow, but who was Nemtsov and was Vladimir Putin either directly or indirectly responsible for his murder? The 55-year-old politician was gunned down as he walked across a bridge over the Moskva River in sight of the Kremlin.
According to BBC News, Nemtsov was a father of four, nuclear scientist, and environmentalist as well as a charismatic figure in Russian politics. Nemtsov first became involved in Russian politics on 1989 when he stood unsuccessfully for election to the Russian parliament in 1989. He was elected to parliament in 1990 and became a firm supporter of Boris Yeltsin.
The young, charismatic, eloquent, fluent English-speaking Nemtsov was media saavy and quickly became one of the rising stars in Russian politics. Many believed that Yeltsin was grooming Boris Nemtsov to be his successor. In 1997, Yeltsin appointed Nemtsov as deputy prime minister. Nemtsov lost his job as a result of the Russian economic crisis, although some felt that his political decline was partly a result of him revealing that he was secretly baptized as a Russian orthodox Jew.
According to the Daily Mail, Nemtsov founded a number of opposition parties after leaving the Russian parliament in 2003. In recent years, Boris Nemtsov has become an increasingly vocal critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Nemtsov accused Putin and his inner circle of being deeply corrupt, and in 2011, he was jailed for his part in the organization of protests over what he claimed was a rigged re-election of Putin.
Speaking to Russia’s Sobesednik news website on 10 February, Boris Nemtsov said, “I’m afraid Putin will kill me. I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more.”
Just hours before his murder, the Daily Mail says that Nemtsov had once again criticized Vladimir Putin, accusing him of creating an economic crisis in Russia through his “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine.”
Police who attended the scene of Boris Nemtsov’s killing are claimed to have said that “the murderers knew Nemtsov’s route, he was spied on.” Nemtsov was said to believe that Putin had him under surveillance because of his opposition and criticizm of the Russian leader. Nemtsov was due to lead a protest march in Moscow on Sunday, February 28.
A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Nemtsov’s murder could have been engineered by those who oppose Putin to try to discredit Putin further.
Dmitry Peskov said, “It was mentioned by the President that it looks like a contract killing, while carrying all the signs of a provocation.”
Putin has said that he will personally oversee the investigation into Boris Nemtsov’s murder, but many will wonder if Nemtsov’s blood is on Putin’s hands.
[Photos by Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Sean Gallup/Getty Images]