Russian opposition leader shot dead in Moscow

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Boris Nemtsov, right, with Sen. John McCain, center, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, left in June 2013. Photo: CNN

Boris Nemtsov, right, with Sen. John McCain, center, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, left in June 2013. Photo: CNN

MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed Friday night after he was shot seven or eight times from a car on a bridge he was walking across, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said in a statement Saturday.

He was deputy prime minister in the late 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin and had been one of current President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics.

Putin condemned the killing of Nemtsov, Russian state broadcaster, Russia Today, said early Saturday.

A criminal case has been opened for murder and weapons trafficking, the investigative committee said.

The bridge was not far from the Kremlin in a part of the city normally busy on a Friday night.

Nemtsov’s death comes two days before a large opposition rally is set to take place in Moscow. Nemtsov, who was in his mid-50s, had been arrested several times in the past for speaking out against the Kremlin.

The most recent came in 2011 when he protested the results of parliamentary elections and in 2012 when tens of thousands protested against Putin.

In a restaurant interview with CNN’s Anthony Bourdain last year he lamented the situation for business owners.

“This is a country of corruption. And if you have business, you are in a very unsafe situation. Everybody can press you and destroy your business. That’s it,” Nemtsov said.

In the same interview, he did offer a bit of optimism.

“This is my country. The Russian people are in bit of trouble. Russian court doesn’t work. Russian education decline every year. I believe that Russia has a chance to be free. Has a chance. It’s difficult, but we must do it,” he said.

Another one of Nemtsov’s criticisms was over the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi. Nemtsov published a report in 2013 describing the Sochi games as one of the most “outrageous swindles” in recent Russian history. He claimed that up to 60% of the final cost — or $30 billion — had been embezzled.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Saturday “it is hard to believe” that Nemtsov was killed. “I have no doubt that the murderers will be brought to justice. Sooner or later. Rest in peace,” Poroshenko said via Twitter.