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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) Tens of thousands of people have come out in Moscow to mourn former deputy prime minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed late Friday, March 27.
Thousands of Russian mourners and Western officials were seen marching to the bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was shot and killed.
Many carried Russian flags and the photo of the 55-year-old politician, who was one of the most vocal opponents of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
His assassination happened while he was about to reveal evidence that he said would prove Russia’s direct involvement in the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
He earlier criticized the ongoing war between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
NO TO WAR
“We have to say no to the war,” he told a crowd at the time. “This mad policy should end. We have to say Russia and Ukraine without Putin. Russia and Ukraine without Putin.”
Nemtsov also investigated corruption, including around the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi.
“These are the most expensive Games in the history of mankind,” he said in an interview with Dutch television. “Putin spent more than 50 billion US dollars mainly from state money. And from my estimation, because of corruption, about than 30 billion has disappeared.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into his murder.
But most previous contract killings, including that of the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, were never solved.
Kremlin linked officials suggested Nemtsov may have been killed by Islamic militants after he criticized the recent massacre at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
However Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the killing was clearly aimed at further pressuring Russia’s fragile opposition.
“The sad fact of this murder is that if they can get Boris Nemtsov, nobody is safe in Russia, no dissident, no opposition figure can walk down the street making sure that he is going to survive.”
And while mourners openly remember Nemtsov, concerns remain about the future of the opposition.
Critics now say Putin has marginalized and intimidated his political opponents, jailing some and driving others into exile.