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The assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is a stunning development even to the most jaded observers of that country’s politics. While it is not known who pulled the trigger or why, the murder of a leading politician within sight of the Kremlin walls is a chilling and gruesome warning to all who would challenge the government of President Vladimir Putin.

Nemtsov was assassinated late on Feb. 27 as he walked with his girlfriend near the Kremlin. The killing was a brazen act: He was shot as he strolled meters from the heart of the Russian government, on a street that is under surveillance by video cameras — 18 by one count.

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