A march to commemorate the second anniversary of the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has taken place in Moscow.
The organisers said 15,000 people took part; the police put the figure at 5,000. A smaller rally was held in St Petersburg.
At the march which gathered political parties and opposition movements, one banner read “Boris Nemtsov is a hero of Russia”, while there were chants of “Russia without Putin”, “Russia will be free” and “Hands off Ukraine”.
Five Chechens have denied charges of murdering the 55-year-old, who was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin and one of the president’s principal opponents.
But Nemtsov’s supporters say the investigation – which the president said he backed – has failed to uncover who ordered the killing.
“Boris Nemtsov was (the symbol of) a ‘free-thinking Russia’ for us; democratic values which we all aim for, such as free elections and no corruption,” said one of the marchers, Moscow resident Ekaterina Getgarts.
“Unfortunately, the name of Boris Nemtsov for Russia as a whole, as opposed to big cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg, does not mean anything yet. Unfortunately. But he represents another missed opportunity for Russia to get on the path towards being a normal country,” said another supporter, Boris Schur.
The marchers had not been authorised access to the spot where, on 25 February 2015, Nemtsov was gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin as he walked home from a restaurant with his girlfriend, but many later laid flowers there.
The march, largely peaceful, was nonetheless marked by an assault on ex-prime minister and government opponent Mikhail Kasyanov who had green ink thrown in his face.
Nemtsov – a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency – had been working on a report on Russian involvement in Ukraine and had accused Putin of launching an illegal war.
The victim’s supporters believe the pro-Moscow leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, was behind the murder. But he denies it and in December Russian investigators refused to call him as a witness.
“Our name is Boris Nemtsov!” protestors chant at march on 2nd anniversary of his murder pic.twitter.com/NLI8AEf0Eq— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) February 26, 2017