Thousands of people participated in a march in Moscow over the weekend to commemorate the death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered outside the Kremlin two years ago.
Protesters at the event, organized by opponents of the Vladimir Putin regime, chanted, “Russia will be free” and “Putin is war,” reports BBC.
Other slogans included, “Give us back our elections, you rats” and “For Russia, without Putin,” adds the British news outlet, noting that “they were all quotes from Boris Nemtsov, held high by the crowd alongside photographs of the politician and the Russian flag.”
“This is not a march of mourning,” Ilya Yashin, identified as a close friend and political ally of Nemtsov’s told the protesters on Sunday, according to Deutsche Welle (DW).”We are not here to cry but to voice our demands, such as asking that political prisoners are released.”
Echoing human rights groups, some protesters held signs urging the Kremlin to “stop its oppression in Crimea.”
Nemtsov is reportedly the highest-ranking opposition official to be murdered since Putin assumed power.
While organizers and reporters at Sunday’s event in Moscow placed the number of attendees at about 15,000, police estimated the size of the crowd to be only 5,000 people, notes DW.
Former member of the Russian parliament Gennady Gudkov claimed the Putin “government is afraid” of the opposition, adding, “They do not know what to do.”
Besides the march in Moscow, smaller demonstrations erupted in various other cities across Russia, including St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and the former Nemtsov political stronghold of Nizhny Novgorod, points out DW.
On February 27, 2015, Zaur Dadayev, a former deputy commander of a paramilitary police force in Russia’s autonomous Chechen Republic, shot 55-year-old Nemtsov in the back as he walked home from a restaurant with his Ukrainian girlfriend.
The opposition leader, one of the most outspoken critics of the Putin regime, died on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, just outside the Kremlin, where supporters have set up a memorial.
Consistent with the position of various countries, including the United States, Nemtsov publicly opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, among other moves by the Kremlin.
“Russian authorities arrested five people from Chechnya, and the suspects are currently on trial,” reports DW. “However, Nemtsov’s family and allies accuse the authorities of not probing the political background of the assassination.”
“According to some, the murder was likely masterminded by someone close to Chechnya’s Kremlin-loyal president and former warlord Ramzan Kadyrov,” it adds.