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Russia Marks One Year Since Nemtsov Killing

  • RFE/RL

Supporters of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov have marched through Moscow to mark the first anniversary of his killing.

Mourners packed the streets as they made their way through the Russian capital. Crowd estimates ranged from a few thousand to as many as 25,000.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a bridge overlooking the Kremlin on February 27 last year.

City authorities denied march organizers permission to hold a procession to the bridge, but gave permission for another route in central Moscow.

The spot where he fell has become an informal shrine where supporters lay flowers and other tokens, which then are frequently removed by city workers.

Earlier on February 27, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft laid a wreath at the bridge, saying he came to express hope that "some of the dreams that Boris Nemtsov had will come true in Russia."

"I think that for all of Russia [Nemtsov's killing] became a kind of point of no return," Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Pussy Riot punk collective, told RFE/RL's Russian Service during the march.

"Indeed, we understand now that the price of protest and disagreement is not only our freedom, but also our lives."

"Nemtsov's murder is a terrorist act, it is a demonstrative murder aimed at frightening Russian society, at least the part which disagrees with Putin's politics," said Russian liberal opposition politician and a political ally of the late Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin.

"It is very important for us to demonstrate to terrorists, murderers, those villains that they will not succeed in trying to intimidate us," he added.

Russian opposition PARNAS party leader and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Nemtsov "is becoming a symbol of our struggle."

"The authorities did not allow us to march to the bridge, because they are afraid of the symbolism of Boris's murder place," Kasyanov said. "But we already call the bridge after him, we call it 'Nemtsov Bridge' and we will succeed in mounting a memorial plaque at the scene of Boris's murder."

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Marches to commemorate Nemtsov were planned in other Russian cities as well, including St. Petersburg where a sizable crowd is reported to have turned out.

The Russian State Duma on February 26 rejected a lawmaker's proposal to hold a minute of silence for Nemtsov.

Dmitry Gudkov, one of only a handful of opposition lawmakers left in the State Duma, which is dominated by the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, made the proposal.

Gudkov, who attended the march, told RFE/RL that the opposition would "continue our fight for a new and democratic Russia."

Ultranationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that Duma deputies "stand up to commemorate someone only when the country's president announces national mourning."

The suspected triggerman in the Nemtsov murder was an officer in the security forces of Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Five other Chechens also face trial in the case.

But who ordered the killing remains unknown. Nemtsov's family and other supporters have slammed the official probe as ineffective.

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Elsewhere, in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, one of the organizers of an event to commemorate Nemtsov was beaten by attackers on February 26.

Vyacheslav Kislitsi was taken to hospital to treat serious injuries, including a broken rib.

A member of the opposition PARNAS party, Aleksei Tabalov, said the attack was linked to the planned march for Nemtsov in Chelyabinsk.

With reporting by AP and AFP