Five men including a security services officer who reported to the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya are on trial for murdering the outspoken Putin critic but many fear whoever ordered the killing will not be brought to justice.
Police said 5,000 people had participated in the demonstration in the capital, but a group counting each person who passed the metal detectors at the beginning of the column said 15,200 had marched. Among them were prominent opposition leaders such as former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who was assaulted before the march began.
“There are two components [of this march], the first is the commemoration of our comrade and my friend Boris Nemtsov, who was cruelly killed outside the Kremlin, and the second is the principles that we defined with Boris and our struggle so that Russia would be a real democratic state,” Kasyanov told the Guardian at the head of the column.
Moments later, an unidentified man threw green ink in Kasyanov’s face, a popular tactic to demean liberal opposition activists. Police quickly detained the assailant and led him away.
Kasyanov had a cake thrown in his face and was pelted with eggs last year after the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, posted a video showing the former PM in the crosshairs of a gun.
Police detained an opposition organiser after a verbal row between him and members of the pro-Kremlin National Freedom Movement, reported OVD Info, which monitors detention of activists. Law enforcement officers also confiscated some posters that referred to Putin by name, marchers said.
“This is a commemorative march, but it’s not a funeral march,” said Nemtsov’s fellow activist Ilya Yashin. “We didn’t gather here to cry, we gathered here to make demands, we gathered to demand Nemtsov’s murderers be brought to justice, the trigger men, the organisers and those who ordered the hit.”
Other cities also held Nemtsov marches, with a reported 2,000 people marching in St Petersburg.
The events coincided with the release from prison of the opposition activist Ildar Dadin after more than a year, during which time he made serious allegations of torture. He was the first and so far only person convicted under a harsh recent law that criminalises repeated unsanctioned protests.
He was released after several days of delays that former Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovsky said had intended to prevent him from attending Sunday’s march in Moscow, where people held Russian flags, placards with Nemtsov’s face and quotes from the former deputy PM such as: “Bring back elections, you creeps!”
Some carried roses to lay at the spot where Nemtsov was shot, on a bridge next to the Kremlin. A small group of nationalists with black, yellow and white Russian imperial flags also joined in the march.
The front rows of the column chanted: “Our name is Boris Nemtsov!” while carrying a huge banner that read “Heroes don’t die! Russia will be free!” Other chants included “Putin is a thief,” “Putin is war,” and “Kadyrov to prison.”
“The organisers and those who ordered [Nemtsov’s killing] are, I’m deeply convinced, the political leadership and rulers of Chechnya,” said former MP Gennady Gudkov. “Today the federal authorities are covering for them. They are not bringing anyone to responsibility and slowing the investigation.”
Another colleague of Nemtsov, activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, left Russia for further treatment last week after surviving a poisoning attempt. In a Facebook post, he called on people to come to the march on Sunday.
On Monday activists who tend to the makeshift memorial to Nemtsov at the spot where he was shot said municipal workers had taken away all the flowers and pictures in the early hours. By late Monday morning, Nemtsov supporters flocked back to the bridge to bring more flowers.
Author: Alec Luhn