Putin pledges to bring Nemtsov killers to justice

RUSSIAN president Vladimir Putin has vowed to do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for the “vile” murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in a drive-by shooting near the Kremlin.

“Everything will be done so that the organisers and perpetrators of a vile and cynical murder get the punishment they deserve,” Mr Putin said in a telegram to Mr Nemtsov’s mother published on the Kremlin’s website.

Mr Nemtsov, 55, was shot multiple times as he walked along the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge, not far from the Kremlin.

The attacker, who has not been identified, was in a white car that sped off after the attack.

Mr Putin told Mr Nemtsov’s 86-year-old mother, Dina Eidman, that his death was an irreparable loss and that he had “left his trace in Russia’s history, in politics and public life”.

Mr Nemtsov, who served as deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in the 1990s, “worked in significant posts during a difficult transitional period for our country,” Mr Putin said.

“He always directly and honestly announced his position, stood up for his point of view.”

Mr Putin, who has taken personal charge of the investigation, was quoted by the Kremlin as saying the crime “had all the hallmarks of a contract killing and is entirely provocative in nature”, suggesting it was aimed at smearing the authorities.

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, also said the killing was aimed at “destabilising the situation in the country, at heightening confrontation” with the West.

Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev praised Mr Nemtsov as a “principled person” who “acted openly, consistently and never betrayed his views”.

He said he was “shocked at the cruel and cynical murder”.

United States president Barack Obama decried the “brutal” and “vicious murder”, which prompted the cancellation of a major opposition rally planned for Sunday, and urged Russia to conduct an impartial probe.

French president Francois Hollande called the killing a “hateful murder” of a “defender of democracy”, while British prime minister David Cameron said the “callous murder” must be investigated “fully, rapidly and transparently”.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, voicing “indignation” over the assassination, also called for a speedy, transparent probe.

Murder ‘meticulously planned’, investigators say

The brazen assassination was one of the highest-profile killings during Mr Putin’s 15 years in power and recalled the shooting of anti-Kremlin reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down on Mr Putin’s birthday in October 2006.

The powerful Investigative Committee leading the probe said it was looking into a possible “provocation to destabilise the political situation in the country”.

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