Russian opposition supporters are paying tribute to Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin who was gunned down one year ago today. Memorial marches are set to take place across the country.
Thousands of mourners staged a mass march through Moscow on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of Boris Nemtsov's killing.
The 55-year-old opposition politician was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin walls just before midnight on February 27, 2015.
Ahead of the march, Russians laid flowers and candles at the spot where his body was found. US ambassador John Tefft placed a wreath at the bridge early Saturday, saying he'd come to express hope that "some of the dreams that Boris Nemtsov had will come true in Russia."
"It's a very big loss, because there are very few well-known opposition activists," Nemtsov's daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, said. "He was one of the most prominent, most courageous, most principled people."
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny wrote that the march in Nemtsov's memory was also "a march demanding a normal country and normal state where contract killings in the form similar to public executions do not take place."
Murder investigation criticized
City officials denied organizers permission to hold a procession to the bridge, and the rally will instead follow another route through central Moscow. Meanwhile, authorities in several other Russian cities have prohibited protesters from holding rallies.
On the eve of the anniversary, lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov proposed that a minute's silence be held in parliament to honor Nemtsov. But his suggestion was rejected by most of the 450 politicians in the lower house. After Nemtsov's death, the Kremlin described the killing as a "provocation" and vowed to do everything possible to catch the perpetrators.
Police have since charged five Chechen men with the murder, which investigators say was a contract killing planned carefully over months. Nemtsov's family has criticized the investigation and point blame at the Kremlin itself, insisting the authorities have failed to bring the masterminds to justice.
nm/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)