27 Feb 2017

Thousands remember slain Russian politician

11:41 am on 27 February 2017

Thousands of people have marched in Moscow to remember Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015.Mr Nemtsov, a reformer, democrat and former deputy PM, was a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Some marchers chanted "Russia will be free!" and "Putin is war!"

The anniversary of the death of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov is honoured by demonstrators who marched through central Moscow.

The anniversary of the death of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov is honoured by demonstrators who marched through central Moscow. Photo: AFP

Five Chechen men are on trial for the killing. They deny the charges and Mr Nemtsov's relatives fear whoever ordered the murder will never be found.

Separately, anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin, the first person jailed under new laws targeting protests, was released on Sunday from a Siberian prison. The Supreme Court had overturned his conviction on Wednesday.

He has said he was tortured by staff while in prison - an accusation officials deny.

Mr Nemtsov, who was 55, was shot in the back as he walked home from a restaurant with his Ukrainian girlfriend late at night near the Kremlin on 27 February 2015.

Flowers are placed at the ceremony marking  Boris Nemtsov's death.

Flowers are placed during the ceremony marking Boris Nemtsov's death. Photo: AFP

He had earlier been at the radio station Ekho Moskvy, calling on listeners to join a protest. He had accused Russia's president of launching an illegal war with Ukraine, prompting Western sanctions and an economic crisis.

He had also been planning to publish a file on Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine.

Organiser Ilya Yashin told Reuters: "We gathered here to demand the bringing of Boris Nemtsov's killers to justice, not only its performers but also its organisers and those who ordered it."

The rally appeared peaceful, although a green fluid was thrown into the face of Putin critic and former PM Mikhail Kasyanov.

Rallies also took place in St Petersburg and other cities.

Mr Nemtsov's political allies believe the killing was meant to terrify them into silence.

Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza earlier urged people to join the anniversary rallies.

Mr Kara-Murza is recovering abroad after an illness that had left him in a medically induced coma. His symptoms were similar to a near-fatal illness in 2015 that he believed was the result of deliberate poisoning.

The trial of the five Chechens for Nemtsov's murder began in October.

The suspect who investigators say carried out the killing, Zaur Dadayev, was an officer under the command of pro-Moscow's Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's Chechen Republic in the volatile North Caucasus.

The Chechen leader has denied any link to the killing.

President Putin called the murder "vile and cynical" and vowed that those responsible would be held to account.

Russia has seen several killings of high-profile politicians and journalists.

But the country has a long history of prosecuting alleged hit men and then failing to follow the chain of command upwards to discover who ordered the murder or why, a BBC correspondent said.