Tens of thousands march in silence over killing of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov – Telegraph.co.uk
The march was one of the largest demonstrations by Russia’s marginalised opposition since a series of anti-Kremlin rallies which Mr Nemtsov helped organise in 2012.
Another mourning march for Nemtsov was held earlier on Sunday in St Petersburg, drawing what police estimated was 6,000 people.
The mood at both was sombre, with marchers walking in silence or talking in subdued voices.
“I wouldn’t have been at the march that was originally planned because I don’t see how it would change anything,” said Zhenia Belyakova, an environmental activist who marched with a Russian tricolour ribbon on the strap of her handbag.
“I came out because I felt a duty to stand with those who are appalled by the murder of a member of the opposition, to show that I am not indifferent,” she added.
“The flag is because I am Russian and this is a tragedy for Russia,” she said. “It is a sign of national mourning.”
Russian national flags are raised during a march in memory of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow (AP IMAGE)
Others said that while they did not support Mr Nemtsov’s politics, they respected his position and his personality.
“He was a vivacious person, so full of life that I can’t believe he is dead,” said Fyokla Tolstaya, a journalist and great, great granddaughter of writer Leo Tolstoy. “I don’t believe that a court will find out the truth; nobody believes that.”
Police detained a Ukrainian MP attending the march.
Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee later said that Alexei Goncharenko was being questioned over his alleged involvement in a fire that killed dozens of people in his home city of Odessa last year.
Alexei Goncharenko wearing a T-shirt depicting Boris Nemtsov and reading in Ukrainian ‘Heroes never die’ during the Moscow march (Alexey Kravtsov/AFP)
The fire in the city’s trade union building broke out during clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists. Several of the victims were Russian citizens.
The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Volodymyr Groisman, said the detention was a violation of international law because Goncharenko has diplomatic immunity.
Mr Goncharenko initially said via his Facebook page that he had been detained for wearing a T-shirt with Mr Nemtsov’s face and the Ukrainian slogan “heroes never die.”
“Heroes never die” became a popular slogan in Ukraine after the deaths of dozens of protesters in street clauses that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych one year ago.
A former deputy prime minister and regional governor, Mr Nemtsov was one of the most vociferous public critics of Vladimir Putin, who he accused of “mad, aggressive” policies towards Ukraine just hours before he died.
Russia’s opposition supporters carry portraits of Boris Nemtsov during the march (AFP)
His death was all the more shocking because he had retained friends in the Russian elite, including in government.
Mr Putin has called the murder “vile” and vowed to bring the culprits to justice.
Official spokesmen have attempted to distance the Kremlin from the killing, describing it if anything as a “provocation” designed to discredit the government.
Investigators have offered a reward of 3-million roubles, around £30,000, for information. They have said they are looking at a number of theories, including that Mr Nemtsov may have been killed by Islamist extremists for his comments on the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in January.
But the conspicuous absence of Mr Nemtsov’s public clashes with the government from a list of possible motives presented by investigators on Saturday has aroused suspicions of a whitewash.
Many of Mr Nemtsov’s friends and allies are convinced he was killed because of his public criticism of the government, whether with or without the Kremlin’s consent.
Vladimir Milov, a liberal politician, said he was convinced the murder was carried out by the security services to fracture the opposition and foster a climate of fear.
“It was an organised operation, it wasn’t just one man shooting Nemtsov and running away,” he said at Sunday’s march.
Others say the Russian president is at least partially responsible for the murder because he encouraged a “climate of hatred” against opposition figures.
New CCTV footage of the moment of the killing that emerged on Saturday night has reinforced suspicions that it was the work of a professional hit squad.
Riot police stand guard during the march in Moscow (Reuters)
The grainy video, recorded from the other side of the Moskva River and broadcast by the Moscow city government television station, contradicts earlier reports that Nemtsov was killed by assailants shooting from a passing vehicle.
Instead, the assassin apparently hid in a stairwell leading off down from bridge. As Nemtsov passed, the killer emerged and began shooting at Nemtsov’s back, killing him with four pistol rounds. He then hurriedly climbed into an arriving getaway car, and was driven away.
“You would have needed to coordinate very closely between Nemtsov and the car… It is clear that it was a very sophisticated and professional killing,” said Andrey Soldatov, a Russian security expert. Up to 15 people working in three teams could have been involved, he said.
Marina Litvinenko, the widow of the murdered former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, said on Sunday that she believed Vladimir Putin may be behind Mr Nemtsov’s death.
Speaking to BBC radio, she said the murder seemed to have been the Russian government’s way of silencing critics of Mr Putin, but offered no proof.
She has previously accused Mr Putin of involvement in the death of her husband, who died of polonium poisoning in London in 2006.
Mr Nemtsov’s funeral will be held in Moscow on Tuesday.