Tens of thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday in memory of Boris Nemtsov, the opposition politician who was gunned down near the Kremlin shortly before midnight on Friday.
Supporters chanting “Russia without Putin” held portraits of the slain Kremlin critic and carried signs saying “I am not afraid,” Reuters reported.
“This is being seen as a pivotal moment for Russian politics,” New York Times Moscow correspondent Andrew Kramer told PBS NewsHour on Saturday. “Some are saying this suggests a return of fear to Russian politics, even of terror. This is really a new horizon for what’s happening here.”
Nemtsov, 55, was killed a few hours after giving a radio interview in which he criticized Russian intervention in Ukraine as a “mad, aggressive and deadly policy of war,” according to the Associated Press. He was shot four times in the back and head.
“We’ve had dissidents arrested before. We’ve had them go into exile, and we’ve had journalists and human rights workers, obviously, die under mysterious circumstances,” Kramer said. “But this was a senior member of the Russian government in the 1990s, and he was shot very theatrically right in front of the Kremlin.”
Russian officials have proposed a number of possibilities for who might be behind Nemtsov’s assassination, including Islamic extremists or members of his own opposition movement. Nemtsov’s supporters counter that Russian authorities were responsible.
“The authorities are corrupt and don’t allow any threats to them to emerge. Boris was uncomfortable for them,” opposition leader Gennady Gudkov told Reuters.
Leaders in the United States, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have condemned Nemtsov’s killing and have called for an impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding his murder.
In a statement released Friday, Obama praised Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”
“Nemtsov was a tireless advocate for his country, seeking for his fellow Russian citizens the rights to which all people are entitled,” he said.
Speaking on the ABC program “This Week” on Sunday, Kerry called for a “thorough, transparent” investigation into Nemtsov’s assassination.
“The bottom line is we hope there will be a thorough, transparent, real investigation, not just of who actually fired the shots but who if anyone may have ordered or instructed or been behind this,” he said.