Sat, 24 Apr 2021

Several thousand people commemorated the sixth anniversary of the death of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow.

Opposition supporters laid flowers on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge -- a short walk from the Kremlin -- where Nemtsov was gunned down on February 27, 2015.

Nemtsov was an ardent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ambassadors of several Western countries, including the United States and Britain, were among those who attended the commemoration.

The anniversary is usually marked with a march through central Moscow. But due to restrictions on mass gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic, opposition activists gathered at a makeshift memorial site on the bridge.

The Bely Schetchik organization, which tracks attendance at public rallies, said about 4,600 people took part in the event as of 3.30 p.m. local time.

'We come together in this place on this day every year to show the authorities that we have not forgotten and will not forget,' opposition politician and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told AFP on February 27 at the memorial site. 'I am sure that what Boris fought for -- freedom for Russians, their well-being, and a dignified life -- will soon come about."

Among those who laid flowers were the U.S., EU, and British ambassadors to Russia, among other Western representatives.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross tweeted that U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan had marked the 'brutal murder' of Nemtsov, whom she described as having been 'dedicated to pursuing a better future for his country.'

'He remains an inspiration to many who strive for justice, transparency, freedom,' she tweeted.

'As we remember Nemtsov, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms,' U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. 'We remain deeply troubled by the Russian government's growing intolerance of all forms of independent expression.'

The anniversary of Nemtsov's death comes after Russia's jailing of opposition political leader Aleksei Navalny and a crackdown on his allies.

Last week, a Moscow court upheld a 2 1/2 year prison sentence imposed on Navalny earlier in February for a parole violation related to a previous embezzlement conviction.

The Russian opposition called on supporters to gather at the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge to pay tribute to Nemtsov, but not to rally.

Navalny's allies have declared a pause on protests until spring after authorities responded forcefully to a wave of national demonstrations, detaining more than 10,000 people in dozens of cities and filing administrative and criminal cases against many of them.

Last week, a Moscow court upheld a 2 1/2 year prison sentence imposed on Navalny earlier in February for a parole violation related to a previous embezzlement conviction.

The opposition said it planned a "memorial event," not a rally, to pay tribute to Nemtsov on February 27.

WATCH: Battle Goes On For 'Nemtsov Bridge' Memorial

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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