Thousands mark sixth anniversary of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AFP and AP
Thousands mark sixth anniversary of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov
Copyright  Dmitri Lovetsky/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Thousands of Russians, as well as some western diplomats, have marked the sixth anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

He was a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and was shot dead on a bridge just a stone's throw away from the Kremlin.

Normally a march is held in central Moscow on the anniversary but it didn't go ahead this year because of the pandemic.

However, a memorial that is normally dismantled by the authorities, was allowed to remain in place.

Supporters of Nemtsov have tried to maintain the memorial ever since his killing but police and city workers regularly pull it down.

The United States' ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, was the most prominent diplomat to lay a wreath at it on Saturday.

"He remains an inspiration for many who aspire to justice, transparency, freedom," a spokeswoman for the American embassy in Moscow, Rebecca Ross, wrote on Twitter.

Speaking to AFP, former prime minister Mikhail Kassianov said: "We gather here every year on this day to show the government that we have not forgotten and will not forget. The memory of Boris will not be erased".

In July 2017, five men from the Chechen and Ingushetian republics were found guilty of Nemtsov's murder and given between 11 and 20 years in prison.

The family of Boris Nemtsov, however, denounced the sentences as a "total fiasco" of justice, saying the real sponsor of his killing was not identified.

On Thursday, Prague renamed a square in front of the city's Russian Embassy after Nemtsov.

The city's mayor Zdenek Hrib unveiled a new street sign just days after the municipality voted to approve the name change.

"I understand the new name is an expression of solidarity with the opposition in Russia and the human rights movement," Hrib said.

Nemtsov's daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, thanked Prague during the ceremony.

"Boris Nemtsov was a representative of humanism in Russian politics," Nemtsova said. "We had only a few of them in history, unlike many tyrants," she said through a translator.