Opposition supporters laid flowers on the bridge in central Moscow where Nemtsov was killed six years ago.
Several thousand people commemorated the anniversary of the 2015 murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow on Saturday, following a crackdown on protests against the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.
With minimal police presence at the scene, opposition supporters laid flowers on the bridge in central Moscow where Nemtsov was shot dead on the night of February 27 six years ago.
Nemtsov briefly served as Deputy Prime Minister in the late 1990s before joining the opposition, and Russian news agencies have said ambassadors from several Western countries were among those who attended the commemoration of Saturday.
“We meet here every year to show the authorities that we have not forgotten and that we will not forget,” former prime minister and opposition politician Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters at the rally.
“I am sure that what Boris fought for – freedom for the Russians, their well-being and a dignified life – will come true soon,” he added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the United States remains “deeply troubled by the Russian government’s growing intolerance of all forms of independent expression.”
He said that Nemtsov “dedicated his life to building a free and democratic Russia”.
‘Memorial, not a gathering’
Allies of Navalny, who was jailed this month for parole violations he said were trumped up, have declared a temporary moratorium on street protests.
They announced the freezing of protests after several rallies across the country were disrupted by police, who detained more than 11,000 people, according to a monitoring group.
But the opposition urged Muscovites to come and pay homage to Nemtsov while observing social distancing and wearing masks. Several volunteers handed out masks to the participants.
Authorities in Moscow refused their request to hold a memorial march due to the pandemic, but Saturday’s meeting was allowed to continue.
“This is a commemorative event, not a rally or a march,” said a statement signed by several opposition politicians and posted on social media.
“We recommend that you do not bring posters. It is not necessary to give reasons for the police to detain [participants]. “
Nemtsov had worked on a report examining Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine at the time of his assassination.
After his assassination, opposition activists began guarding a makeshift memorial on the bridge when city officials refused a request to install a plaque in his honor.
City employees have dismantled the memorial several times over the years. Police arrested eight people last week as they attempted to lay flowers on the memorial after it was dismantled by police.
In 2017, a court sentenced five men to 11 to 20 years in prison for their involvement in Nemtsov’s murder, but allies of the late politician said at the time that those who ordered his murder were still freely.