Thousands march in Russia to mourn opposition leader Nemtsov
Updated: 2015-03-02 09:42
People march behind a banner to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night, in central St. Petersburg, March 1, 2015. The banner reads, "Boris Nemtsov. We will not forget! We will not forgive!". [Photo/Agencies]
MOSCOW - Carrying flowers, portraits and signs that said "I am not afraid," more than 20,000 people somberly marched Sunday in Moscow to mourn opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, whose slaying on the streets of the capital has shaken Russia's beleaguered opposition.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has marginalized and intimidated his political opponents, jailing some and driving others into exile, since mass anti-Putin protests swept Moscow in 2011 and 2012. Nemtsov, 55, was among the few prominent opposition figures who had refused to be cowed.
The mourners on Sunday marched to the bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was gunned down shortly before midnight Friday. Chanting "we'll not forget, we'll not forgive," the crowd filled the road along the Moscow River embankment. Many waved Russian flags.
The mood was somber, with heavy security. Police helicopters flew overhead and police boats patrolled the river.
Ilya Yashin, a friend and fellow opposition leader, said he hoped the killing would not frighten people.
"Essentially it is an act of terror. It is a political murder aimed at frightening the population, or the part of the population that supported Nemtsov and did not agree with the government," Yashin told The Associated Press. "I hope we won't get scared, that we will continue what Boris was doing."
The march could energize the opposition, but it could also prove to be a brief expression of emotions that dissipates in a climate of fear.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who joined the opposition, told the crowd the killing should be a turning point for Russia "for the simple reason that people who before thought that they could quietly sit in their kitchens and simply discuss problems within the family, now will start reconsidering everything that's going on in our country."