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Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011. Photo: Reuters

Nemtsov’s close associate and opposition leader Ilya Yashin called the deadly attack on his friend “a political murder.”

“Boris was the most outspoken critic of Putin and the most charismatic leader of the opposition and his dead body found 100 yards from the Kremlin is a clear message to all the opposition activists and all people who do not support the Kremlin,” Yashin said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This act of political terror is clearly aimed to stun and horrify the opposition to the Putin regime on the eve of the march we will now hold as a mourning march as originally planned on Sunday.”

Nemtsov ran afoul of Putin’s Kremlin administration years ago and had been active with the opposition coalition PARNAS.

Russia Today television, a pro-Kremlin mouthpiece, said on Twitter that the slaying “could be a provocation,” suggesting that the opposition was responsible for the killing to tarnish the Putin administration.

United States President Barack Obama condemned the “brutal murder” and called for a full investigation into the killing.

Mr Obama said he admired Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”

Other pro-democracy allies and world leaders who knew the gregarious and energetic politician expressed horror over the killing that many were inclined to see as an assassination.

“Shock. Boris has been killed. It’s impossible to believe,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said via Twitter. “I’m certain the killers will be punished. Sooner or later.”

Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and another outspoken opponent of Mr Putin, linked Nemtsov’s killing with other violence attributed to the Kremlin and its enforcers.

“(Journalist Anna) Politkovskaya was gunned down. MH17 was shot out of the sky. Now Boris is dead. As always, Kremlin will blame opposition, or CIA, whatever,” Mr Kasparov said via Twitter.

In an interview last year, Nemtsov laid out a bleak forecast of Russia’s political future under Mr Putin, who engineered constitutional changes before his 2012 reelection that should allow him to remain at the Kremlin’s helm until 2024.

Putin’s primary goal as Russian leader, Nemtsov argued, is not to build a modern, European state and vibrant middle class but “to keep power and money by all means,” through oppression when necessary or by highlighting invented threats to Russia from abroad.

“He has $500 billion in Central Bank reserves, 100 percent control of television and authoritarian laws that allow the administration to strike anyone from the list of candidates,” Nemtsov said of the prospects of Putin being voted out of office in the next election, in 2018.

TNS, Reuters


Henry Sapiecha


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