Leaders of St Petersburg’s main opposition parties bring citizens together and urge them to carry out Nemtsov’s vision
Today, 26 February, an estimated 3,000 St Petersburg residents came together to hold a silent march and a public meeting in memory of the slain Kremlin opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Similar marches were held in more than twenty cities in Russia and different other cities all over the world.
On the night of 27 February 2015, Nemtsov was gunned down on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge within meters of the Kremlin, just a day before a planned protest against the government in Moscow.
Nemtsov, who had served as first deputy prime minister under president Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, had grown critical of Putin’s regime, the war in Chechnya, and the annexation of Crimea, and had taken part in numerous protests against the Kremlin.
Within weeks after the assassination, the five assailants, all of whom were identified to be of Chechen descent, were captured by the authorities and are currently in trial. However, the perpetrators were only identified insofar as being the enactors of the crime and not the organisers. Many former relatives and friends of Nemtsov have been criticising the Russian authorities for allowing the investigation to grow stagnant. A large portion of today’s participants were carrying signs saying “Who ordered (the murder)?” to draw attention to the absence of a concrete culprit.
Much of the discourse at the public meeting highlighted Nemtsov’s consolidatory abilities to bring rivals together under one banner. Many feared that his death would deal a serious blow to the very heart of the opposition, fracturing the different democratically inclined political parties.
Several opposition parties cooperated in organising today’s event, and representatives from parties such as Vesna, Open Russia, Yabloko, and Nemtsov’s former party Parnas all partook in delivering speeches. All of the speeches accentuated the importance of carrying Nemtsov’s vision and ideas forward via engaging in collaborative democratic work and continuing the battle against the current Kremlin regime. The speakers also stressed for citizens to engage in their civic duties, actively partake in public demonstrations, and closely observe and scrutinise the voting process of the future elections.
A melange of flags could be spotted at the event, from national flags such as that of Ukraine, Lithuania, and the US, to various organisations including LGBT, a visual testament to the fact that a fraction of Russian society still hopes and believes in a democratic future.