Russia protests: What they could mean for Putin

The Russian people's reaction to the death of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition politician who was killed near the Kremlin on Friday night, could shape Russia for decades.

Conspiracy theories as to who ordered the shooting already abound. The 70,000 who marched in Nemtsov's memory on Sunday seemed to believe that the Russian government is responsible – while state media pointed the finger at the West, or other forces who may want to further destabilize Russia.

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The country's investigative committee (which is looking into the murder) has said it is examining lines of inquiry including links to the conflict in Ukraine and Islamic terrorism.

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"Regardless of who exactly carried out the killing, it will likely solidify the divide between opponents and supporters of President Vladimir Putin," said Otilia Dhand, senior vice president at Teneo Intelligence, in a research note.

Some analysts argued that Putin might even gain support following the murder. Amid worries about an anti-Russia conspiracy, Putin could be seen "a consolidating, center political figure and an adequate compromise for both left and right," Ovanes Oganisyan, a strategist at MidLincoln Research, wrote in a research note.

The coming weeks will be crucial in determining whether Nemtsov's death was the moment at which the opposition's flame started to burn brighter - or was snuffed out.

If there are more opposition protests around the country, a violent crackdown by the Kremlin, or its supporters, against dissenters would likely follow. Some opposition leaders may choose to flee the country, instead of waiting to be the next target of whoever killed Nemtsov.

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And more sanctions by Western governments will follow, if the Russian administration appears to be clamping down on protests. It comes as chances of a diplomatic solution to the contretemps over Ukraine look to be fading.

"This appears to be not only a more unpredictable, but also a very different Russia than had appeared to be the case a year or so ago, less of a partner and more of a real adversary," Tim Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, wrote in a research note.

Despite the turmoil, and evidence that the Ukrainian conflict is far from over, there appears to be more interest in investing in Russia after a disastrous 2014.

The ruble is the year's best-performing currency to date and Russia's dollar-denominated stock markets have also been the best-performing among major markets since the start of 2015. This is partly reflective of the small oil price rally, and the low base from which they started.