While his supporters claim that he was killed for criticising Vladimir Putin, investigators believe it might be an attempt to destabilise Russia
Moscow: Russia’s top investigative body said on Saturday that it was looking into several possible motives for the killing of prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, including an attempt to destabilise the state, Islamic extremism, the Ukraine conflict and his personal life.
(Inset) Four bullets killed opposition leader Boris Nemtsov yesterday. pic/afp. A woman lays flowers at the place where he was gunned down. Pic/AP
A statement from the body, the Investigative Committee, did not address the possibility seen as likely by many of Nemtsov’s supporters — that he was killed for being one of President Vladimir Putin’s most adamant and visible critics.
The 55-year-old Nemtsov was gunned down on Friday near midnight as he walked on a bridge near the Kremlin with a female companion. The killing came just a few hours after a radio interview in which he denounced Putin’s “mad, aggressive” policies and the day before he was to help lead a rally protesting Russia’s actions in the Ukraine crisis and the economic crisis at home.
After his death, organisers cancelled the rally and instead called for a demonstration to mourn him on Sunday in central Moscow.
The Investigative Committee said it was investigating whether Nemtsov had been killed as a “sacrificial victim for those who do not shun any method for achieving their political goals,” a suggestion echoing the comments by Putin’s spokesman and other Russian politicians that the attack was a “provocation” against the state.
It also said it was considering whether there was “personal enmity” toward him in his domestic life. State-controlled TV and Kremlin-friendly media outlets on Saturday gave considerable attention to Nemtsov’s companion, identifying her as a Ukrainian model, 30 years his junior and showing photos of her in alluring poses. The Investigative Committee said the pair were headed for Nemtsov’s apartment.
The statement also said it was investigating whether the killing was connected to the Ukraine conflict, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since last April, or whether there was a connection to Islamic extremism.
Nemtsov was working on a report presenting evidence that he believed proved Russia’s direct involvement in the separatist rebellion that has raged in eastern Ukraine since April.
Moscow denies backing the rebels with troops and sophisticated weapons.
Nemtsov frequently assailed the government’s inefficiency, rampant corruption and Ukraine policy.
In an interview with the Sobesednik newspaper, Nemtsov said earlier this month that his 86-year old mother was afraid that Putin could have him killed. Asked if he had such fears himself, he responded: “If I were afraid I wouldn’t have led an Opposition party.”