ARUN RATH, HOST:
Tens of thousands of people marched in Moscow today to remember one of President Putin’s staunchest critics, who was gunned down on Friday night. The procession to mourn Boris Nemtsov was one of the biggest in the city since the anti-government demonstrations began in 2011. NPR’s Corey Flintoff has this report.
(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER PROPELLER)
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The mass of people passed by some of the most potent symbols of the Russian state, including the Kremlin Towers. Some carried signs saying I Am Not Afraid.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Russian).
FLINTOFF: Opposition groups provided hundreds of Russian flags, each one with a strip of black ribbon in sign of mourning for one of their most outspoken and charismatic figures.
ANTON ROMANENKO: I would say, first of all, that he was a very good human being. I would say that he was very bright figure and a very good politician.
FLINTOFF: That’s university student Anton Romanenko, who says he particularly admired the 55-year-old leader for exposing corruption among government officials. Nemtsov’s corruption accusations extended as high as President Vladimir Putin. He published a pamphlet last year detailing what he said was Putin’s unaccounted-for personal wealth, including estates and palatial homes.
If Putin felt enmity, he’s been careful not to show it in the past two days. He issued a statement condemning the crime and saying that he would personally oversee the investigation.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Russian).
FLINTOFF: One of Nemtsov’s closest allies called it a political murder, aimed at scaring those who don’t agree with the government. Sergei Belagorov, a physicist, says Nemtsov’s death is an especially painful loss for people like him who remember Nemtsov’s rise in the 1990s, when there was much more political freedom.
SERGEI BELAGOROV: Because, for me – I’m about 44 – the atmosphere is already quite bad. I can imagine that for younger people, there is still some hope.
FLINTOFF: There were many younger people in today’s procession, but it’s not clear whether they feel hope or whether that hope will translate into activism. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow.
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