By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In another setback for political change in Russia, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down by several men who shot him four times in the back while he traversed a bridge along with a Ukrainian woman. Boris was to speak before a peace rally denouncing Russian involvement in the hostilities in the Ukraine, economic policies, and other issues.
Boris, a former deputy-prime minister, is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The crime scene was within two hundred meters of the Kremlin.
In a not so reassuring gesture, President Putin vowed to personally take charge of the investigation.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president expressed his condolences and ordered security agencies to investigate.
Peskov said the shooting could also have been a “provocation,” considering that Nemtsov was planning to participate in a big protest organized by the opposition in Moscow on Sunday, Deutsche Welle reported.
President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko conveyed his condolences. Among other media he stated in Twitter, “Shock. Borys was murdered. It is hard to believe. I have no doubt that murderers will be brought to justice. Sooner or later. Rest in peace.”
Boris began his high profile political career as governor of Nizhny Novgorod. He rose to the position of deputy prime minister under the Yeltsin administration during the 1990’s. Boris joined the political opposition to Vladimir Putin when he became powerful in 2000.
In the lead-up to another rally, police forces in Moscow began jailing and harassing activists aligned against President Putin. Activist Alexei Navalny was arrested and is to be held for fifteen days after he was seized handing out leaflets in a Moscow subway. The leaflets contained information for the upcoming rally that was to be critical of the government and its handing of affairs including the economy and other issues important to various Russians.
According to the BBC, Boris less than three weeks before his murder, on 10 February, he said “I’m afraid Putin will kill me”. This textual (but not video or audio) statement appeared on Russia’s Sobesednik news website.
Boris has at least four prior arrests by police relating to his speaking and organizing political rallies in opposition to President Putin or the government in general: in 2007; 2010; and twice in 2011.
This assassination of a high-profile political opponent having a provenance at his level could be a sign of things to come in Russia for President Putin–either a strengthening of his grip on power or to establish inertia for his opponents. But with his polling levels remaining high, this inertia might prove more sedentary.
By Darren Smith
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