Boris Nemtsov death: Vladimir Putin admits 'audacious' murder of opposition leader may have been politically motivated

The Russian president said he was joining calls for an end to political killings

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The Independent Online

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he believes the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was politically motivated.

Speaking during a meeting with officials from the country’s interior ministry, Mr Putin called for Russia to be made free of such murders, which he described as “a disgrace”.

Mr Nemtsov was murdered as he walked with his girlfriend just outside the walls of the Kremlin on Friday night, and the former deputy prime minister was buried in Moscow on Tuesday.

The death of one of Mr Putin’s most outspoken critics, which Kremlin officials say was not picked up by any of the cameras in their extensive security arsenal, has led to widespread criticism for the Russian president. His aides, however, have rejected any suggestion that he may have been involved.

At the government meeting today, Mr Putin said attention must be drawn to Mr Nemtsov’s murder, which a spokesman for the president has described as a “provocation” designed to discredit the Kremlin.

In televised comments to ministers, Mr Putin said: “The most serious attention must be paid to high-profile crimes, including those with a political motive. We must finally rid Russia of the disgrace and tragedy of the kinds of things we recently saw and experienced. I mean the audacious murder of Boris Nemtsov in the very centre of the capital.”

No arrests have yet been made in relation to the killing, and when asked about any progress with the investigation on Tuesday, the head of Russia's FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov said: “There are always suspects.”

Mr Nemtsov's killing was the biggest political assassination in Russia since 2006, when another Kremlin critic, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment building on Mr Putin's birthday.

Five Chechens were convicted in the case last year, while the exiled Russian interior ministry officer and fellow assassination victim Alexander Litvinenko publicly named Mr Putin as being behind the killing at an event in London.

Those claims, however, could simply be put down to a personal vendetta on the part of Mr Litvinenko - who also named Mr Putin as his own killer on his deathbed.

And amid the accusations and counterclaims, yesterday Mr Nemtsov’s death became a further strain on the relationship between Russia and the EU when Moscow banned Polish and Latvian politicians from entering the country to attend his funeral.

Russia said it denied entry to Polish senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz and Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete because they were on a list of officials barred from visiting the country in retaliation for the EU sanctions against Russia.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz called the bans a “high affront” and said he would intervene with Russian authorities “in the strongest terms and demand an official explanation”.