Nemstov’s murder is believed to be linked with his opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine
Former deputy prime minister and lead Russian opposition member Boris Nemstov has been shot dead in Moscow. On Feb. 27, an unidentified man shot Nemstov from his car four times in the back as he crossed a bridge near the Kremlin.
His death came as he was working on a report presenting evidence that he believed would prove Russia’s involvement in supporting Ukrainian rebels, a claim that Moscow continues to deny.
He was also organizing a march in Moscow against the war in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has condemned the murder, Kremlin officials say.
In a recent interview, Nemstov expressed fear that the Russian President would try to kill him for his opposition to the war in Ukraine.
He was known to speak openly of the problems he saw plaguing Russian government, including inefficiency, corruption, and the administration’s Ukraine policy.
Nemstov was speaking on the radio only hours before his death, criticizing Putin for his “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine.”
“The country needs political reform,” said Nemstov.
“When power is concentrated in the hands of one person and this person ruled forever, this will lead to an absolute catastrophe, absolute.”
Nemstov, who was 55 at the time of his death, first served as deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990’s. He earned his reputation as an economic reformer while governor of Nizhny Novgorod, one of Russia’s biggest cities.
He was never on good terms with President Putin, Yeltsin’s successor, and has been an outspoken member of the opposition since Putin took office.
Thobjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, condemned the killings via tweet, saying, “I am shocked and appalled key opposition leader Boris Nemstov was shot. Killers must be brought to justice”.
President Barack Obama also condemned the “brutal murder”, calling the Russian government to conduct a “prompt, impartial and transparent investigation”.
Nemstov was shot just before midnight while crossing Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge in Moscow.
The weapon used was a pistol, and the attacker fled the scene in a vehicle. Some sources say that there were multiple gunmen, who all exited the same vehicle to shoot at Nemstov.
In his last tweet before he died, Nemstov tried to appeal to Russia’s divided opposition parties to unite at an anti-war march he was planning.
“If you support stopping Russia’s war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin’s aggression, come to the Spring March in Maryinho on 1 March,” he said.
“I’m afraid Putin will kill me,” said Nemstov earlier in the month.
“I believe that he was the one who unleashed the war in the Ukraine. I couldn’t dislike him more.”
Putin has been accused internationally of sparking the violent and deadly rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which he continues to deny.
The region has been in constant conflict since Russia’s annexation of Crimea last March.
The war has seen at least 5,800 people killed, and over one million have fled their homes, mostly to Russia, according to the United Nations.
The Ukrainian government, most Western leaders, and NATO say it is clear that Russia is helping bolster rebel forces with soldiers and heavy weapons.
Other independent experts also agree that Moscow is aiding the Russia-sympathizing rebels with heavy weapons, vehicles, supplies and ammunition, but the government continues to deny any involvement.