Last Friday, Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s former deputy prime minister and a vocal critic of Putin, was shot several times on a bridge in Moscow. This wasn’t just any bridge, either: this was Bolshoy Moskovretsky Bridge, which leads to Red Square and the Kremlin’s presidential palaces.
To put this in perspective, this is is roughly equivalent to Ed Miliband being killed on Westminster Bridge, or if Jeb Bush was found dead at the George Washington Monument. (We do realise that this isn’t an exact parallel – Nemtsov was an opposition leader rather than the opposition leader, and unlike Miliband or Bush had almost no prospect of being in government any time soon – but nonetheless it’s pretty shocking.)
Before his murder, Nemtsov was due to hold an opposition march against the Kremlin on Sunday, but this was transformed into a mourning march as protesters turned out in their thousands (estimates ranged from 7,000 to 70,000) to protest his death. Many carried flowers, while others carried pictures of Nemtsov or placards.
Nemtsov was co-chair of Russia’s four-party Freedom Party coalition (also known as the RPR-Parnassus party), and was vocally opposed to Russia’s military action in the Ukraine. It’s not clear who killed him, or why, though grainy CCTV footage has emerged showing the bridge at the time of the murder.
Muscovites seem to think they have some idea, though: the BBC reported that messages on placards included “He died for the future of Russia” and “They were afraid of you, Boris”, while protesters shouted “Russia without Putin” and “Putin, leave!” outside the Kremlin.