Moscow (CNN) — Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot four times and killed by an unknown assailant in central Moscow on Friday evening, a law enforcement agency told Russian state news agency Itar Tass.
He was deputy prime minister in the late 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin and had been one of current President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics.
His death comes a day before a large opposition rally was going to take place in Moscow. Nemtsov, who was in his mid-50s, had been arrested several times in the past for speaking out against the Kremlin.
The most recent came in 2011 when he protested the results of parliamentary elections and in 2012 when tens of thousands protested against Putin.
In a restaurant interview with CNN’s Anthony Bourdain last year he lamented the situation for business owners.
“This is a country of corruption. And if you have business, you are in a very unsafe situation. Everybody can press you and destroy your business. That’s it,” he said.
In the same interview, he did offer a bit of optimism.
“This is my country. The Russian people are in bit of trouble. Russian court doesn’t work. Russian education decline every year. I believe that Russia has a chance to be free. Has a chance. It’s difficult but we must do it,” he said.
Another one of Nemtsov’s criticisms was over the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi. Nemtsov published a report in 2013 describing the Sochi games as one of the most “outrageous swindles” in recent Russian history. He claimed that up to 60% of the final cost — or $30 billion — had been embezzled.
CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen reported from Moscow. CNN’s Steve Almasy and Gena Somra reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.