Russia! When art thou going to stop the violence against yourself? Russia is a country where you have to keep watching your back either as a national or foreigner. Russian political opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot and killed in Moscow early Saturday, authorities said.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Nemtsov, an opposition politician and former deputy prime minister, was gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin by someone inside a car who fired seven shots. Police said he was struck four times.
The death of Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, ignited a fury among opposition figures who assailed the Kremlin for creating an atmosphere of intolerance of any dissent and called the killing an assassination. Putin quickly offered his condolences and called the murder a provocation.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Alexeyeva said Nemtsov was on a stroll with a female acquaintance, a Ukrainian citizen, from St. Basil's Cathedral when he was killed. The woman was not hurt.
Nemtsov's death comes just a day before a planned protest against Putin's rule. Putin ordered Russia's top law enforcement chiefs to personally oversee the probe of Nemtsov's killing.
"Putin noted that this cruel murder has all the makings of a contract hit and is extremely provocative," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
Nemtsov was a sharp critic of Putin, assailing the government's inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin's policy on Ukraine, which has strained Russia-West ties to a degree unseen since Cold War times.
Nemtsov was working on a report presenting evidence Russia had direct involvement with the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, something Moscow denies, The Associated press reported.