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Demonstrators at the site of Nemtsov's murder in Moscow

Demonstrators marched in Russian cities on February 25 to commemorate slain Kremlin critic and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov.

Rallies were held in numerous cities across Russia ahead of the third anniversary of Nemtsov's murder, which drew international condemnation and highlighted the dangers faced by Russians who oppose the Kremlin.

Nemtsov, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a Moscow bridge overlooking the Kremlin on February 27, 2015.

Thousands marched in central Moscow in a demonstration featuring placards with slogans such as "Democracy is the right to kick out authorities" and "I'm against the annexation of Crimea," a reference to Russia's 2014 seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea.

Rallies In Russian Cities Commemorate Nemtsov
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One group of protesters carried a banner that read "Retribution is inevitable: We won't forget, we won't forgive."

Some demonstrators chanted "Putin is a thief" and "We are Boris Nemtsov."

One Russian group that monitors crowd sizes at public demonstrations estimated that as many as 7,600 participated in the Russian capital, while Moscow police put the figure at 4,500.

Kremlin critics frequently accuse authorities of underestimating crowd sizes at protests in order to portray them as marginal events.

Prominent liberal opposition politicians attended the Moscow demonstration as well. They included Grigory Yavlinsky and Ksenia Sobchak, who are running for president in a March 18 election that is all but guaranteed to hand Putin a new six-year term.

One demonstrator in Moscow, who gave his name only as Vadim, said he was "protesting against a dictatorship."

"You have to do something, take at least one step to make things better," Vadim, who said he is a pensioner, told RFE/RL.

Organizers in St. Petersburg, meanwhile, said nearly 2,000 people turned out to commemorate Nemtsov. Authorities said 350 people participated.

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny attends a rally in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny attends a rally in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, activists said police attempted to detain a protester who was waving a Ukrainian flag but that his fellow demonstrators prevented them from doing so.

Earlier on February 25, dozens of Nemtsov's supporters marched in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and the capital of Russia's Tatarstan region, Kazan, on February 25. In Novosibirsk, demonstrators staged a rally at a monument to victims of political repression.

Two liberal activists were reportedly detained by police in St. Petersburg as the made their way to the demonstration, while two members of a nationalist group were reportedly detained by Moscow police as they approached the site of the march in the capital.

In July, a Moscow court found five men from Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya guilty of the murder and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.

The rally in the Tatar capital, Kazan.
The rally in the Tatar capital, Kazan.

But relatives and associates charge that his assassination was ordered at a higher level. They say justice will not be served until the person or people who ordered the killing are identified and prosecuted.

As with previous high-profile killings -- including the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 -- government critics have voiced suspicion that the culprits will never face justice because an honest investigation could lead to figures who are close to Moscow-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov or to Putin's inner circle.

The February 25 demonstrations come just days after Moscow's mayor said a plaque honoring Nemtsov will be mounted on the apartment building where he lived in the Russian capital.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin wrote on Twitter on February 22 that the decision to mount the plaque was made following a request from a presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak.

Moscow authorities had previously prevented activists from installing a similar plaque on the bridge where Nemtsov was shot dead, where supporters have established a makeshift memorial to the slain politician.

That memorial has been repeatedly ransacked or removed by police or unidentified individuals.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Ekho Moskvy, Interfax, Moskovsky Komsomolets, and Fontanka.ru
Rashidjon Qodirov was Uzbekistan's prosecutor-general for 15 years. (file photo)

Uzbek authorities say the country's former prosecutor-general, Rashidjon Qodirov, is being investigated for alleged extortion, bribery, and abuse of office.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement on February 24 that Qodirov was detained the previous day.

It did not provide further details of the case.

Qodirov is the latest in a series of top government officials who have been caught up in an apparent purge by the administration of President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

On February 22, an official with the Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL that Qodirov had been arrested, and was being questioned by investigators in Tashkent.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said two other former prosecution officials, who worked under Qodirov, were also arrested on February 22.

The moves come roughly three years after Qodirov was sacked amid a purge of officials connected to the investigation of Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of late President Islam Karimov.

Karimova has been imprisoned since 2014, and was reportedly sentenced last year, for a multinational, multiyear bribery extortion campaign that ensnared, among other things, major telecommunications companies.

Qodirov, who served as the country's top law enforcement official for 15 years, was the prosecutor at the helm in 2014 when Karimova was charged.

Qodirov's arrest also comes about 10 days after his son, Alisher, fled the country.

Under Islam Karimov, who ruled the country with an iron fist after the Soviet collapse, Uzbekistan had largely become isolated and economically stagnant.

Since succeeding Karimov after his death in 2016, Mirziyoev has publicly criticized government agencies, and moved to sack or remove large numbers of officials.

At a meeting of ministers in August 2017, the Uzbek president called officials at the Prosecutor-General's Office "the biggest thieves."

The country's finance minister has reportedly dismissed some 1,000 employees since December, after being called out publicly by Mirziyoev.

More recently, on January 31, Mirziyoev removed the long-serving head of the country's powerful SNB security service.

With reporting by Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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