While the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to come under fire from European and American officials for their unacknowledged support of the rebels battling the Ukrainian government in Donbass, assassinations and accusations against other opposition leaders have begun to attract significant amounts of media attention inside Russia.

On Friday, former Deputy Prime Minister and notable opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead following an anti-war gathering of Russians opposed to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Reports indicate that he was shot five to eight times in the chest from a vehicle that had approach him as he walked home and crossed a bridge in Moscow. Al Jazeera reports:

Nemtsov, 55, was a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, assailing the government’s inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin’s policy on Ukraine, which has strained Russia-West ties to a degree unseen since Cold War times. His death comes just a day before a planned protest against Putin’s rule.

Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed the death, saying it had opened a criminal probe. (Al Jazeera, February 27)

Nemtsov’s murder is the latest in a long list of untimely deaths of Russian opposition voices. Throughout the presidency of Putin (as well as his term as prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev from 2008-2012), journalists and opposition leaders have repeatedly been targeted for assassination and imprisonment by the Russian government. This extends even to Russians and European government officials in other countries. The reach of the Kremlin has even allegedly reached London. On November 1, 2006, former Russian FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko fell ill and died after being poisoned with Polonium-210. He died 22 days later. It remains widely suspected that agents working on behalf of the Russian government poisoned Litvinenko after he accused the Putin regime of murdering journalists and staging the bombing of Russian buildings that were blamed on Chechen separatists.

Litvinenko had been arrested in 1998 after he and other FSB officers made public statements indicting their superiors as ordering the assassination of Russian businessman and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky himself later resigned his position in the Russian parliament (Duma) and relocated to Great Britain where he continued to accuse the Russian government of being behind attacks on apartment buildings in Russian cities in 1999 that effectively acted as the catalyst for launching Russian military action and the renewed war in Chechnya. He was found dead of hanging in March 2013. While no evidence of a violent struggle was found, the characterization of Berezovsky’s death remains an “open verdict” after re-examination by a coroner.

In the last year, other Russians standing in opposition to the Putin government have been similarly targeted for imprisonment. Aleksei Navalny, a former lawyer and critic of Russian political corruption, has become a leader in the Russian opposition movement in recent years. In many ways, Navalny is now representative of the dissident movement that stands opposed to the continued rule of President Putin. After emerging in 2011 as a public voice opposing corruption in the Putin government, Navalny has used his website to speak out against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, organize political gatherings, and rally Russians against the ruling regime in Moscow.

In December, Navalny escaped a prison sentence after being convicted of criminal charges related to fraud. However, in the hours following the adjudication of his sentence, Navalny left his house arrest to join in a protest against the Putin government. Seemingly in response, the government imprisoned Aleksei’s younger brother, Oleg: