One of the most renowned leaders of the Russian opposition, Boris Nemtsov, was murdered in Moscow on 27 February. Mr Nemtsov was shot to death in the very centre of the city, metres away from the Kremlin wall.
The Russian police started an investigation into the case, considering several motives that might be behind it. However the Russian President's official spokesman, Dmitriy Peskov, was quick to claim it was an assassination. He said Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about what happened, noting "this brutal murder has all the signs of a contract murder and is extremely provocative". The President also ordered the heads of the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB to "control the investigation personally."
On the night of his murder Nemtsov dined with his partner, 23-year-old Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya, and they went for a walk. The CCTV cameras show that as they were crossing the bridge, the killer walked towards them, passed by, and made six or seven shots in the politician's back. Four bullets were on target, and Nemtsov died on the spot. Ms Duritskaya witnessed the murder but was not hurt. A car picked the killer up and drove away.
The murder has provoked great uproar worldwide and at home. US President Barack Obama was among the first to condemn it and to demand a "prompt, impartial and transparent investigation" to "ensure those responsible are brought to justice." He was joined by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, EU Envoy to Russia Vigaudas Ushatskas, Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, and former Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin.
Nemtsov enjoyed a long and distinguished career in our country. He served as Deputy Prime Minister under President Boris Yeltsin, and in the first decade of the Millennium he was in the opposition to Vladimir Putin, before winning election to the Yaroslavl regional parliament in 2013. He was behind several opposition rallies, including the biggest protests witnessed in Russia between 2011 and 2013 against Putin and election fraud. On 1 March 2015, Mr Nemtsov was set to lead another opposition rally in Moscow, which was cancelled upon news of his death.
Russian opposition leaders and activists have rushed to condemn the murder. Mikhail Kasyanov said the murder was "a revenge for his freedom, for his truth, for the consistent evaluation of the current events." Meanwhile, Yabloko Party leader Sergey Mitrokhin calls Nemtsov's death "a blow to Russian statehood', adding that "it's a challenge. Putin's personal opponent has been killed."
There's little doubt among Nemtsov's fellow-thinkers the murder was politically motivated. "I cannot believe that some independent, frenzied killers with firearms can easily operate in the centre of Moscow, almost in Red Square," said December 5th Party leader Sergey Davidis.
It is at this point unclear who could benefit from the death of the high-profile opposition leader. The Russian ruling elite doesn't look like they gain much here, for the murder obviously harms their image and is awfully misplaced and mistimed: with the long-awaited progress on the Ukraine conflict settlement, the Russian government and the business elite are hopeful the sanctions will eventually be lifted. In these circumstances, shooting an opposition figurehead would be akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
A lot of the European and the American media blamed Putin's regime for the murder. Anyway, the best tool for 'Putin's regime' to come clean is an absolutely transparent and impartial investigation. If we see it, be sure the judoist Vlad will use another personal challenge to himself to his advantage.