It almost seems as though Russian President Vladimir Putin's political enemies are becoming a kind of endangered species. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the latest casualty, was shot dead on Friday night on a bridge in central Moscow, just blocks from the Kremlin.
Nemtsov, who co-chaired the Republican Party of Russia-People's Freedom Party, was reportedly walking across the Zamoskvoretskiy bridge with a woman when he was shot four times from a passing vehicle, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.
The 55-year-old served as the first deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, the late former Russian president who took office following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was set to participate in an "anti-crisis march" against Putin and Russia's role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine on Sunday.
Ilya Yashin, one of Nemtsov's RPR-PARNAS colleagues, confirmed his death, according to the BBC.
"Unfortunately I can see the corpse of Boris Nemtsov in front of me now, at the Bolshoy Zamoskvoretsky Bridge," he remarked, according to Russia's lenta.ru news website. "I see the body and lots of police around it."
A source at the scene told Interfax that the murder "appeared to be a contract killing." The news agency noted that Putin immediately ordered the forming of an investigative group to probe Nemtsov murder upon learning of the assassination.
"I'm afraid Putin will kill me," Nemtsov told the Sobesednik news website on February 10.