A prominent Russian opposition leader, Boris Y. Nemtsov, was shot dead in central Moscow late Friday night within sight of the Kremlin walls.
The murder of Mr. Nemtsov, 55, a first deputy prime minister under Boris N. Yeltsin who later helped organize opposition demonstrations against President Vladimir V. Putin, was confirmed by Russia’s Interior Ministry shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.
A smooth-talking and worldly man who spoke accented but near-perfect English, Mr. Nemtsov rose to prominence as the governor of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and became a vice premier in the late 1990s, during the last years of Mr. Yeltsin’s presidency.
Since leaving the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s Parliament, in 2003, he has founded and led a number of opposition parties and organizations, the latest being the Republican Party of Russia – People’s Freedom Party, a registered political party.
The attack came less than two days before Mr. Nemtsov was to lead another mass rally against Mr. Putin. The rally’s organizers put out a statement of purpose earlier denouncing Mr. Putin for the country’s growing economic crisis and its part in the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Nemtsov was walking on the Bolshoi Kammeny Most, a bridge south of the Kremlin, when he was fired upon at least seven times from a passing car, Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, told state news media. Mr. Markin said that witnesses were being questioned. No suspects have been reported to be in custody.
The Interfax news service, citing a police source, said that the shooting appeared to have been a contract killing.
Mr. Nemtsov, an economic reformer under Mr. Yeltsin who was seen as a possible heir, had toiled for more than a decade in the opposition to Mr. Putin. He wrote heated denunciations of Mr. Putin’s politics in Ukraine and graft in the preparations for the Sochi Olympics of 2014.
In the decade after Mr. Putin’s rise to the presidency, several prominent journalists and rights workers were shot to death in attacks seen as retribution for their work. Paul Khlebnikov of Forbes was shot in 2004; Anna Politkovskaya, well known for her fiery polemics against the war in Chechnya, was shot in 2006. Natalya Estemirova, a human rights worker, was kidnapped and shot to death in the North Caucasus in 2009.
SOURCE: ANDREW ROTH
The New York Times