HOLDING placards declaring “I am not afraid”, thousands of Russians marched in Moscow yesterday in memory of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, whose murder has widened a split in society that some say could threaten Russia’s future.
Families, the old and young, walked slowly, with many carrying portraits of Nemtsov, an opposition politician and former deputy prime minister who was shot dead while walking home from a restaurant in central Moscow on Friday night.
“If we can stop the campaign of hate that’s being directed at the opposition, we have a chance to change Russia. If not, we face the prospect of mass civil conflict,” opposition leader Gennady Gudkov said before the march.
“The authorities are corrupt and don’t allow any threats to them to emerge.”
His murder has prompted deep soulsearching in a country where for years after the Soviet Union collapsed many yearned for the stability later brought by President Vladimir Putin. Some now fear his rule has become an autocracy. Putin has vowed to pursue those who killed Nemtsov.
Investigators are pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the possibility that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition killed him to blacken Putin’s name.
Nemtsov, 55, was one of the leading lights of an opposition struggling to revive its fortunes three years after mass rallies against Putin that failed to prevent him from returning to the presidency after four years as prime minister.