Thousands of Russians have marched through central Moscow shouting “shame” and holding placards of murdered opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down just metres from the Kremlin on Friday night.
Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister whose mother was Jewish but who went to an Orthodox church, had been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and of his country’s military involvement in Ukraine. He was shot in the back four times, days after co-organiser Alexei Navalny was jailed.
Leonid Bershidsky, a Russian Jewish journalist based in Berlin, said Nemtsov had been the subject of an online smear campaign. “It did not help that he was Jewish,” he said. “There was a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism in it.”
Nemtsov was the only recognisable opposition figure left in Russia, the rest either dead, in prison or in exile. With most Russian media outlets controlled by a handful of Putin’s cronies, Nemtsov supporters say he was denied airtime and column inches, but that he had still managed to attract a large following
“It completely shocked me,” said one woman who braved the Russian winter to attend Monday’s march. “We have descended into fascism.”
The huge crowd snaked through the streets to cries of “I am Boris Nemtsov,” echoing the sense of solidarity in Paris in January, when gunmen attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and millions declared “Je suis Charlie.”
Jewish dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent 11 years in prison after criticising Putin, said: “For many people Boris’s death will be a Rubicon, that the entire country may become different.” He suggested that Russian stood “on the precipice of all-out war, of everybody against everybody”.
Many Russians believe that it was the critic’s most recent promise – to expose Russia’s involvement in Ukraine – that led to his death. Russian involvement in the conflict is still denied by Putin, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
“Boris had declared that he would provide the clear evidence of Russian Armed forces’ participation in (the war) in Ukraine,” said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “Somebody was afraid of this.”