31 March 2020

Russian authorities arrest 2 men in killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

KONFRONTASI-Russian authorities arrested two men Saturday in the killing of a key opposition leader, Russian state media reported.

Boris Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin's outspoken critics, was shot in the back on a Moscow bridge as he walked with his girlfriend past the Kremlin in late February.

Surveillance video showed someone darting from the sidewalk and into a nearby car right after he collapsed.

Putin has been informed of the arrests in connection with Nemtsov's death, Russian media said, citing Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov.

Bortnikov said those detained are from the southern region of the North Caucasus, which for years has been a hotbed of unrest and rebellion against Moscow.

The slain opposition leader's daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, said around midday Saturday that the only things she knows about the arrests come from media reports, as authorities have not contacted her yet.

When asked about the suspects, she said, "I have no idea who they are."

Opposition blames Putin

After Nemtsov's shooting Putin blamed extremists and protesters who he said were trying to stir internal strife in Russia.

Yet many opposition sympathizers and people close to Nemtsov have pointed the finger at him and the Russian government he leads. They note that Nemtsov -- the deputy prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin -- is the latest in a list of Putin's opponents who have been killed or imprisoned.

Nemtsov had also been arrested several times for speaking against the government.

Russia's President shares "political responsibility" for Nemtsov's assassination, his daughter Zhanna told CNN on Friday in her first TV interview since his death. She spoke from Germany.

Jailed or killed

Other opposition figures previously jailed or killed include Anna Politkoskaya, a journalist critical of Russia's war in Chechnya. She was gunned down at the entrance to her Moscow apartment in 2006.

There was also business magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who backed an opposition party and accused Putin of corruption. Khodorkovsky landed in jail after a conviction on tax fraud, which he said was a ploy to take away his oil company. The government rejected the claim. Putin pardoned him in 2013.

Former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by a lethal dose of radioactive polonium, his tea spiked in a London hotel during a meeting with two former Russian security servicemen.

He had blamed the agency for orchestrating a series of apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 that left hundreds dead and led to Russia's invasion of Chechnya later that year.

The Kremlin has staunchly denied accusations that it or its agents are targeting political opponents or had anything to do with the deaths.[mr/cnn]

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