Nemtsov admitted fears for life weeks before murder

People gather on February 28, 2015 at the spot where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow (AFP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

Moscow (AFP) - Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gunned down on Friday in a contract-style killing, gave an interview this month admitting he had feared for his life over his opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with weekly Sobesednik, Nemtsov was asked: "Have you started worrying that Putin could personally kill you in the near future or do it through middle men?"

He replied: "You know... yes. A little.

"But all the same I'm not that scared of him. If I was that afraid, I would hardly have headed an opposition party and would hardly be doing what I'm doing now," he said in the interview published in early February.

The Kremlin critic who courted public anger by opposing Russia's actions in Ukraine said he often discussed politics with his 86-year-old mother, Dina, who agreed with his views but feared he could suffer deadly consequences.

"She is categorically against what is happening in Ukraine, she thinks that it's a disaster and a complete nightmare," he said.

"But she is more worried about Putin than Ukraine. Every time I call her, she gives me a talking-to: 'When will you stop being rude about Putin? He'll kill you.' And she is being absolutely serious," Nemtsov said.

In a light-hearted exchange, the Sobesdenik journalist told Nemtsov: "I hope that common sense will prevail after all and Putin won't kill you."

"God willing. I hope so too," Nemtsov replied.

Investigators in charge of the probe into Nemtsov's killing cited threats to him over his condemnation of the murders at Charlie-Hebdo weekly as a possible motive.