The Kremlin critic Boris Nemzow was murdered five years ago. Now tens of thousands of demonstrators in several Russian cities remember him. At the same time, many protests against political repression and President Putin.
The protesters in Moscow were not deterred by the massive police force. The police spoke of more than 10,000 participants in the Nemzow march. Professional counters from civil society, however, gave the number as 22,500 people. The demonstrators had followed an appeal by opposition politician Alexei Navalny and other organizers to join the rally in large numbers.
Many demonstrators carried banners with Nemzow’s photo. There was a minute’s silence. The demonstrators called on posters to investigate the political criminals and put them in prison. It was the first major rally in Moscow since last summer’s brutally suppressed demonstrations for free and fair elections.
In St. Petersburg, around 2,000 people took part in a march to the memorial to the victims of political repression. Other memorial marches were held in Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk, among others.
Ex-government chief Nemzow, known as a Kremlin critic, was shot dead near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015. In 2017, a former Chechen officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder. Four other men were found guilty of murder. However, the family and supporters of Nemtsov accuse the Russian authorities of failing to hold the masterminds accountable to this day.
Sharp criticism of Putin’s constitutional plans
In Moscow, the demonstrators also chanted “freedom for the political prisoners” in chants. The opposition also used posters to protest that Putin would remain in power permanently in Russia. The president is currently changing the constitution. After that, the 67-year-old could lead the country’s fortunes longer than previously possible. According to the existing constitutional law, his last possible term of office ends in 2024. Navalny, who also participated in the rally approved by the Moscow authorities, wants to send a signal to the Kremlin chief with the protests that he is not keeping power at all costs can if his mandate expires in four years.
A protest sign by the demonstrators read “Putin’s regime is a threat to humanity”, another adorned a quote by the murdered opposition figure under Nemtsov’s picture: “Putin’s policy is based on pure lies”. Again and again, the crowd chanted “Russia without Putin” and “Russia will be free”. The population is divided on the question: In a poll by the independent Levada Center, 45 percent indicated that Putin should finally step down in 2024, while 45 percent said he should stay in power.