Thousands march in memory of slain Putin critic ahead of Russian election

Alec Luhn
The Telegraph
Marchers in Moscow carry a sign with Boris Nemtsov's face and the words
Marchers in Moscow carry a sign with Boris Nemtsov's face and the words

Thousands of people around Russia have marched in the memory of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov three weeks before an election that Vladimir Putin is almost sure to win.  

At least three demonstrators in Moscow and two in St Petersburg were detained. Several cities including Nemtsov's hometown Nizhny Novgorod banned marches on Sunday, but demonstrators came out anyway.

The opposition has been divided ahead of the March 18 election. Ksenia Sobchak, the television host whose long-shot presidential candidacy is seen by some as a Kremlin ploy, walked at the front of more than 7,000 marchers in Moscow. 

Not far behind marched popular anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. He has been calling for a voter boycott to lower turnout after he was barred from the race. 

<span>Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been barred from the presidential race, marches in front of Mr Nemtsov's portrait</span> <span>Credit: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images </span>
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been barred from the presidential race, marches in front of Mr Nemtsov's portrait Credit: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ms Sobchak told journalists that she would fight the political system in which “a person can be killed for what he thinks and what he says”. 

But several marchers told The Telegraph they planned to boycott the vote.

“This is also a form of civic protest, to not participate in the election, because we can't influence its outcome,” said student Ivan Drobotov, 22. 

<span>Boris Nemtsov speaks at a protest against Vladimir Putin in 2012</span> <span>Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Bloomberg </span>
Boris Nemtsov speaks at a protest against Vladimir Putin in 2012 Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Bloomberg

He and a friend were among those planning to volunteer as electoral observers to try to prevent the turnout from being artificially inflated.

After the march, mourners laid flowers on a bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was shot on February 27, 2015.

The mayor's office last week approved a plaque for the building where he lived, but the makeshift memorial on the bridge has been raided dozens of raids by local authorities and pro-Kremlin activists. 

Although five triggermen were convicted of his murder, those who ordered the hit have not been brought to justice.

A former deputy prime minister, Nemtsov was once eyed as a potential successor to president Boris Yeltsin.

Instead he became an outspoken opposition politician, arguing in a controversial report in 2014 that the cost of the Sochi Olympics had risen to $50 billion due in large part to corruption. 

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