Thousands attend Boris Nemtsov memorial march in Moscow

March used to honour slain Russian opposition leader and protest against Putin

  Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (centre-left) and his brother Oleg  take part in a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov to mark the fourth anniversary of his murder, in Moscow. Photograph: EPA

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (centre-left) and his brother Oleg take part in a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov to mark the fourth anniversary of his murder, in Moscow. Photograph: EPA

 

Thousands of people gathered in Moscow on Sunday for the annual march to commemorate the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was shot dead near the Kremlin four years ago.

Organisers presented the event as an opportunity both to honour Nemtsov and to protest.

“This is a march in opposition to Vladimir Putin. This is a march for a free and democratic Russia, ” Ilya Yashin, Russian opposition politician, said in a video released on Sunday.

A charismatic, liberal politician, Nemtsov served as deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president, but went into opposition after Putin came to power in 2000. A fluent English speaker, he was admired in the West for his outspoken criticism of the Kremlin’s slide towards authoritarianism and its aggressive policies in Ukraine.

Shot dead

Nemtsov was shot dead on the night of February 27th, 2015, as he walked home across a bridge near the Kremlin after dining in a restaurant in Red Square. A Moscow court convicted five men from the Russian republic of Chechnya of murdering Nemtsov in 2017, but it’s still not known who ordered the crime and why.

Family and friends of Nemtsov suspect an official cover-up.

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2010. He was shot dead in February 2015 as he walked home across a bridge near the Kremlin after dining in a restaurant in Red Square. Photograph: Reuters
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2010. He was shot dead in February 2015 as he walked home across a bridge near the Kremlin after dining in a restaurant in Red Square. Photograph: Reuters

“The Russian authorities want to quietly shove it under the carpet and give the impression that this flagrant political killing never happened,” said Vladimir Kara-Muza jnr, the president of the Boris Nemtsov Fund that is campaigning for a proper investigation of the murder.

Mr Kara-Muza was in the vanguard of the annual march to remember Nemtsov in Moscow on Sunday that moved at a brisk pace through the city centre behind a banner proclaiming, “We have given Russia over to scoundrels, it’s time to take it back.”

Many people carried portraits of Nemtsov and of the growing numbers of political prisoners that have landed in Russian jails as the Kremlin pushed through increasingly repressive legislation over the past few years.

They chanted defiant slogans – “Russia without Putin”, “Down with the Tsar”, and called for an end to the Kremlin’s belligerent policies – “No to war” and “Ukraine is not our enemy”.

Anger

Police were deployed along the route of the march and had blocked off the entrance to side roads with snowploughs. No disturbances were reported.

Russia’s interior ministry estimated that about 6,000 people participated in the march. However, White Counter, an independent activist group that monitors turnout at demonstrations, said more than 10,600 people had passed through metal detector gates installed by police at the start of the event.

Vladimir Milov, a Russian opposition politician, said the turnout was “quite large” and reflected growing popular anger about falling living standards. Mr Putin promised in a speech last week to increase welfare spending, but the amounts involved would do little to alleviate widespread poverty. “It’s kopecks, that’s all,” he said.

Nemtsov memorial marches were also held in large cities across Russia on Sunday including Saint Petersburg, Saratov and Yaroslavl in the west of the country and Tomsk and Irkutsk in Siberia.

In the US, an event to commemorate Nemtsov took place in Washington DC where a plaza dedicated to the slain politician was unveiled opposite the Russian embassy last year.