Russian President Vladimir Putin has for the first time spoken publicly about the killing of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, calling his death a shameful tragedy. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who became a major opposition figure, was shot four times in the back Friday as he was walking near the Kremlin.
“The most serious attention should be paid to high-profile crimes, including the ones with a political subtext,” Putin said in a televised address to the Interior Ministry. He said the country should be devoid of the shame and tragedies it has recently seen and endured.
“I mean the murder, the audacious murder of Boris Nemtsov right in the middle of the capital,” he said.
Nemtsov’s supporters blame his slaying on the Russian authorities. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in Nemtsov’s death.
According to The Wall Street Journal, investigators haven’t named any suspects in the case, but say they are questioning witnesses, carrying out forensic analysis and have checked security camera footage. Still, the newspaper says that when asked by reporters Tuesday if there were any suspects in the killing, the head of Russia’s FSB security service said, “There always are.”
The BBC says Nemtsov, who had been planning a march against Russia’s involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, said recently that he feared Putin would have killed him because of his opposition to the war.
As NPR reported on Saturday, Western leaders have called on the Kremlin to allow an independent investigation of the shooting, but Putin has vowed to personally oversee the probe.
The only known witness to Friday’s slaying is his 23-year-old Ukrainian girlfriend, Anna Duritskaya, who was walking with Nemtsov when he was killed. According to Reuters, she told news outlets that a lone attacker approached the couple from behind and that she didn’t see the person or identify a license plate on the getaway car. Duritskaya was detained by Russian police for several days but has now returned to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev.