- Thousands remembered the 2015 assassination of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov
- Rally was marred by an ink attack against opposition party PARNAS leader Mikhail Kasyanov
- Rally coincided with release from prison of another opposition activist who served over a year for “unsanctioned” protests and said he was subjected to torture
Thousands of Russians have marched in Moscow in remembrance of the 2015 assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov at a really in which another opposition leader, Mikhail Kasyanov, was assaulted.
An increasingly important critic of the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in downtown Moscow on February 27, 2015,
At the time of his assassination, Boris Nemtsov, a former First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in 1998 under President Boris Yeltsin, was the co-chair of the PARNAS party (“People’s Freedom Party for Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption”) and a member of the legislature in the city of Yaroslavl.
He was also working on a report about Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the start of the still ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbass region. These moves were Vladimir Putin’s response to the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev and the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Nemtsov’s report was completed and released in May 2015 by his associates after his death, and is entitled “Putin War” (in Russian). Over 9,700 people are estimated to have been killed in the war in Eastern Ukraine so far, while millions have been displaced.
Five men, including a security services officer who reported to the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, have been arrested for Nemtsov’s murder and are on trial.
Ink Attack at Nemtsov March
As in 2016, on Sunday Nemtsov’s assassination was remembered by thousands of Russians who rallied in Moscow on Sunday, February 26, 2017.
According to official police figures, about 5,000 participated in the rally, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported. The rally was allowed by Moscow’s authorities.
A group whose members counted all who went through the metal detectors tweeted that the real number was 15,200.
At the start of the march, the current leader of the PARNAS party Mikhail Kasyanov was attacked when an unknown person splashed bright green ink in his face, an act known as a way of humiliating opposition activists. The attacker was detained by the police and taken away.
Last February, Kasyanov, who served as Prime Minister of Russia during Putin’s first presidential term in 2000-2004, was attacked in a restaurant after Chechen leader Kadyrov posted a video showing him in rifle sights. Before that Kasyanov had gone to Strasbourg to ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization not related to the EU, to prepare a report on Nemtsov’s murder.
“There are two components [of this march], the first is the commemoration of our comrade and my friend Boris Nemtsov, who was cruelly killed outside the Kremlin, and the second is the principles that we defined with Boris and our struggle so that Russia would be a real democratic state,” Kasyanov told the Guardian at the head of Sunday’s march for the 2nd year since Nemtsov’s right before he was attacked with ink.
“This is a commemorative march, but it’s not a funeral march,” said Nemtsov’s fellow activist Ilya Yashin who helped complete the assassinated politician‘s report on Russia’s involvement in Ukraine in 2014.
“We didn’t gather here to cry, we gathered here to make demands, we gathered to demand Nemtsov’s murderers be brought to justice, the trigger men, the organizers and those who ordered the hit,“ he added.
The chants at the rally included “Putin is a thief,” “Putin is war,” and “Kadyrov to prison.”
“The organizers and those who ordered [Nemtsov’s killing] are, I’m deeply convinced, the political leadership and rulers of Chechnya,” said former MP Gennady Gudkov.
“Today the federal authorities are covering for them. They are not bringing anyone to responsibility and slowing the investigation,” he added.
Another opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, left Russia for further treatment last week after surviving a poisoning attempt.
The march in Nemtsov’s memory coincided with the release from prison of another opposition activist, Ildar Dadin, who was the first and so far only person jailed under a recent law criminalizing repeated unsanctioned protests.
Dadin spent over a year in prison during which he said he was subjected to grave torture. His release was delayed, according to reports, in order to prevent him from attending the Nemtsov march.
Other Russian cities also held rallies to remember Nemtsov’s assassination, with a reported 2,000 rallying in Russia’s second largest city St. Petersburg.