'I am not afraid': Defiant Russians message to Putin as 20,000 march through Moscow
Carrying flowers, portraits and signs that read “I am not afraid”, more than 20,000 people marched in Moscow to mourn opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, whose killing on the streets of the capital has shaken Russia’s opposition.
President Vladimir Putin has marginalised and intimidated his political opponents, jailing some and driving others into exile since mass anti-Putin protests swept Moscow in 2011 and 2012.
Mr Nemtsov (55) was among the few prominent opposition figures who had refused to be cowed.
The mourners marched to the bridge near the Kremlin where Mr Nemtsov was gunned down shortly before midnight on Friday.
Chanting “We’ll not forget, we’ll not forgive”, the crowd filled the road along the Moscow River embankment.
The mood was sombre, with heavy security. Police helicopters flew overhead and police boats patrolled the river.
Ilya Yashin, a friend and fellow opposition leader, said he hoped the killing would not frighten people.
“Essentially, it is an act of terror. It is a political murder aimed at frightening the population, or the part of the population that supported Mr Nemtsov,” he said.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who joined the opposition, told the crowd the killing should be a turning point for Russia “for the simple reason that people who before thought they could simply discuss problems within the family will now start reconsidering everything that’s going on in our country”.
Russia’s federal investigative agency said it was looking into several possible motives for Mr Nemtsov’s killing.
The first possibility was that the killing was aimed at destabilising the political situation in Russia and Nemtsov was a “sacrificial victim”.
This suggestion echoed comments by Mr Putin’s spokesman that the attack was a “provocation” against the state.
Mr Yashin, however, said Russia’s leadership bore full political responsibility for Mr Nemtsov’s death.
Former deputy prime minister Mr Nemtsov was killed hours after a radio interview in which he denounced Mr Putin’s “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war against Ukraine”.
TV Centre, a station controlled by the Moscow city government, broadcast a video from one of its web cameras that it said shows Mr Nemtsov and his female companion shortly before the killing.
Investigators said they were questioning the woman, Ukrainian citizen Anna Duritskaya, who was with Mr Nemtsov when he was killed.