Russian opposition mourns murdered leader Nemtsov

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Boris Nemtsov, Putin critic, shot dead
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Russian opposition mourns murdered leader Nemtsov
Police escort a man believed to be one of five suspects in the killing of Boris Nemtsov in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 8, 2015. Five suspects in the killing of prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov have been delivered to the court for arraignment, the spokeswoman for a Moscow court said Sunday. The statement by Anna Fedeeva to reporters outside the courthouse came one day after the Federal Security service said two suspects had been detained. Russian news agencies late Saturday reported that two others had been detained, and Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Sunday there was a fifth suspect. Details remain vague in the case despite President Vladimir Putin's pledge to pursue the killers vigorously. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Police escort a man believed to be one of five suspects in the killing of Boris Nemtsov in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 8, 2015. Five suspects in the killing of prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov have been delivered to the court for arraignment, the spokeswoman for a Moscow court said Sunday. The statement by Anna Fedeeva to reporters outside the courthouse came one day after the Federal Security service said two suspects had been detained. Russian news agencies late Saturday reported that two others had been detained, and Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Sunday there was a fifth suspect. Details remain vague in the case despite President Vladimir Putin's pledge to pursue the killers vigorously. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
On Saturday, the head of Russia’s federal security service named Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev as suspects in the murder of Boris Nemtsov.
Police escort the suspects in the killing of Boris Nemtsov into a court house in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 8, 2015. Russia announced the detention of two suspects in the killing of prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov. Details remain vague in the case despite President Vladimir Putin's pledge to pursue the killers vigorously. The Federal Security Service said Saturday that two suspects were detained, but did not specify how they were allegedly involved in the shooting of Nemtsov on Feb. 27. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Police escort a man believed to be one of five suspects in the killing of Boris Nemtsov in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 8, 2015. Five suspects in the killing of prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov have been delivered to the court for arraignment, the spokeswoman for a Moscow court said Sunday. The statement by Anna Fedeeva to reporters outside the courthouse came one day after the Federal Security service said two suspects had been detained. Russian news agencies late Saturday reported that two others had been detained, and Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Sunday there was a fifth suspect. Details remain vague in the case despite President Vladimir Putin's pledge to pursue the killers vigorously. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by a policeman at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Two men of Chechen origin, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, were charged on March 8 with the murder of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov as the five suspects in the case appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Three unidentified suspects detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov hide their faces inside the defendants' cage at the Basmanny district court in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Suspect Tamerlan Eskerkhanov (R) detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov is escorted by a policeman in a court corridor in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 27: Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends an opposition rally in center of Moscow on October 27, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Thousands of Russian opposition supporters marched through the Russian capital on Sunday protesting against President Vladimir Putin and calling for the release of people they cosider to be political prisoners. (Photo by Vasili Shaposhnikov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)
In this photo taken on Aug. 28, 2012, Anna Duritskaya poses for a photo for a modeling portfolio in Kiev, Ukraine. 23 year old, Duritskaya was the one witness of the killing of Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was gunned down not far from the Kremlin, she has been in police custody for questioning since Friday night, but in an interview with TV channel Dozhd on Monday said that she had not seen Nemtsov’s attacker. “I didn’t see anything,” she told Russia’s independent TV channel Dozhd. “I turned around and all I saw was a light-colored car. I saw neither the brand, nor the license plate of the car when it was driving away.” Duritskaya said that she had known Nemtsov for three years. She said that she wanted to leave the country and that she had been questioned exhaustively, but that Russian investigators would not allow her to leave. (AP Photo/Daria Buznikova)
Stunned, thousands of Russians are laying flowers and lighting candles on this Moscow bridge ... where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down late Friday night. The vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin was due to lead a march on Sunday against the war in Ukraine as well as Kremlin policies on the economy ... but organizers say they've canceled the event.
Critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have a history of either being killed or forced to flee their homeland — Boris Nemtsov is just the latest.
Police and medics surround the body of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure and former deputy prime minister, who was shot and killed near the Kremlin, Moscow in the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Nemtsov, a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was killed early Saturday. His death comes just a day before a major opposition rally in Moscow. (AP PHOTO/Alexander Roslyakov)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 28: Police guards the place of murders of Boris Nemtsov on Moskvoretsky bridge in Moscow, Russia on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot dead at night February 28 just a few steps from the Kremlin. (Photo by Dmitry Kuchev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 28: Police officer guards the place of murders of Boris Nemtsov on Moskvoretsky bridge in Moscow, Russia on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot dead at night February 28 just a few steps from the Kremlin. (Photo by Dmitry Kuchev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
Police and medics surround the body of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure and former deputy prime minister, who was shot and killed near the Kremlin, Moscow in the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Nemtsov, a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was killed early Saturday. His death comes just a day before a major opposition rally in Moscow.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends a rally against the war in Ukraine September 21, 2014 in Moscow, Russia. Thosands people gathered to protest against Vladimir Putin's policy and against the war with Ukraine in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 15: Russian opposition leader and formed Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov speaks during a rally against the policies and intervention in Ukraine and a possible war in Crimea, on March 15, 2014 in Moscow, Russia. Thousands of Moscouvits gathered for the rally in Central Moscow as Crimeans vote tomorrow on whether to secede and join Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 12: Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks as Russian anti-Putin opposition activists hold a 'March of Millions' rally on the National Day of Russia on June 12, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. 'Russia Day' is a national holiday since 1992 celebrating independence from the USSR. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images)
Russia's Interior Ministry says Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure and former deputy prime minister, has been shot and killed near the Kremlin. (Feb. 27)
A baby prepares to put a flower to the portraits of Boris Nemtsov during a memorial ceremony on Independence Square in Kiev on February 28, 2015. Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladmir Putin, was shot dead in central Moscow late Friday ahead of a major opposition rally this weekend, investigators and police said. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
RusNano State Corporation CEO Anatoly Chubais (2nd R) arrives with floweres on February 28, 2015 at the spot, where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking in sight of the Kremlin late on February 27, prompting an international chorus of condemnation. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER UTKIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER UTKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man cries on February 28, 2015 at the spot, where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking in sight of the Kremlin late on February 27, prompting an international chorus of condemnation. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER UTKIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER UTKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
People light candles in memory of Boris Nemtsov at the monument of political prisoners 'Solovetsky Stone' in central St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Nemtsov was gunned down Saturday near the Kremlin, just a day before a planned protest against the government. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
People light candles in memory of Boris Nemtsov, seen behind, at the monument of political prisoners 'Solovetsky Stone' in central St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Nemtsov was gunned down Saturday near the Kremlin, just a day before a planned protest against the government. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Mourners following the Russian tradition of memorialising a person nine days after a death lay flowers and votive candles at the place where Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 near the Kremlin, in Moscow, on Saturday, March 7, 2015. Two suspects have been detained in the killing a week ago of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the head of Russia's federal security service said Saturday, an announcement received with both skepticism and reserved satisfaction by some of Nemtsov's comrades.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 8: Suspects, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, are seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Zaur Dadaev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by policemen at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: Anzor Gubashev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is seen behind the bars at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: A suspect is seen behind the bars as Basmanny Court of Moscow hold meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on March 8, 2015. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Zaur Dadaev, charged with the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, is escorted by policemen at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, on March 8, 2015. Basmanny Court of Moscow held meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 08 MARCH: A suspect is seen behind the bars as Basmanny Court of Moscow hold meetings to review the application for the arrest of suspects in the murder of politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on March 8, 2015. (Photo by Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Unidentified suspects detained over the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov are escorted by policemen in a court corridor in Moscow on March 8, 2015. Five suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov appeared in court to determine whether they will be officially placed in detention. Two Chechens, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev were officially accused of 'the murder of Boris Nemtsov and three others are still suspects,' Anna Fadeyeva, spokeswoman for the court in central Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reuters) - Thousands of stunned Russians laid flowers and lit candles on Saturday on the bridge where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead near the Kremlin, a murder that showed the risks of speaking out against President Vladimir Putin.

Nemtsov, 55, was shot four times in the back by killers in a white car late on Friday as he walked across the bridge over the Moskva River in central Moscow with a Ukrainian woman, who was unhurt, police said.

Police sealed off the blood-stained bridge close to the red walls of the Kremlin and Red Square for two hours overnight, then hosed it down as people came to pay tribute to one of Putin's biggest opponents over Russia's role in Ukraine.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which answers to Putin, said it was following several lines of inquiry, including that the opposition may have committed the crime to rally support for a march against Kremlin policies on the economy and Ukraine.

Flowers were piled at least a meter (three feet) high, about two meters deep and two meters wide. A piece of white paper saying "We are all Nemtsov" stood among the flowers.

"People are afraid to support our movement. Opposition activists receive threats every day and Boris was no exception. But they won't stop us," said opposition activist Mark Galperin.

No government or Kremlin official was seen paying tribute but many opposition figures did so, with some warning that the pro-war mood and anti-Western hysteria whipped up by Putin over Ukraine was leading Russia into a dark future.

"In our country there is demand for anger. In our country there is demand for hatred. In our country there is demand for aggression," said Anatoly Chubais, late President Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff and a liberal economic reformer.

Referring to a pro-Putin march last week, he said: "If just a few days ago here in this city people were marching with a poster "Kill off the fifth column" and then today Boris Nemtsov is killed - let's just pause and think what will happen tomorrow. We all must stop."

A former deputy prime minister who had feared Putin wanted him dead, Nemtsov was the most prominent opposition figure killed in Putin's 15-year rule. At one time he had been widely seen as the man most likely to succeed Yeltsin as president.

His gangland-style murder was reminiscent of the chaotic 1990s after the Communist Soviet Union collapsed and raised further questions about the opposition's ability to mount any challenge to Putin in such a dangerous environment.

The Kremlin deflected accusations that it was to blame and Putin put the investigation under presidential control, denouncing what he called a "provocation" before an opposition protest that had been planned on Sunday.

In a telegram to Nemtsov's mother, he promised the killers would be found and punished.

But the killing focused attention on the tough treatment of opponents in Putin's third term, during which several leading critics have been jailed or have fled Russia following mass rallies against the former KGB spy three years ago.

"I would say this is not only a blow to the opposition, it is a blow to all Russian society. It is a blow to Russia. If political views are punished this way, then this country simply has no future," said Sergei Mitrokhin, an opposition leader.

FEW POLITICAL MURDERS SOLVED

Leading international condemnation of the murder, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation to ensure those responsible were brought to justice for the "vicious killing".

Political murders often go unsolved in Russia. Police said they were investigating whether the murder was aimed at destabilizing the political situation in Russia or was committed by radical Islamists against Nemtsov, a Jew.

A car suspected of being used by the killers, and identified as coming from the mainly Muslim Ingushetia region, was found abandoned in central Moscow. Some Russian news outlets said surveillance footage showed two men leaving it.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cautioned against jumping to conclusions but some opposition figures blamed Putin directly. Others said Russian society was in decline, describing an environment where Putin demands total loyalty and supporters go to great lengths to do what they think may please him.

"In Putin's atmosphere of hatred and violence, abroad and in Russia, bloodshed is the prerequisite to show loyalty, that you are on the team," another opposition leader, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, said on Twitter.

"If Putin gave (the) order to murder Boris Nemtsov is not the point. It is Putin's dictatorship. His 24/7 propaganda about enemies of the state."

ANONYMOUS THREATS

Nemtsov, who had been out walking on Great Moskvoretsky Bridge after a meal in a restaurant by Red Square, had said in a recent interview the president might want him dead because of his opposition to the conflict in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Nemtsov had told him a couple of weeks ago that he planned to disclose evidence of Russia's involvement in Ukraine's separatist conflict.

"Someone was very afraid of this ... They killed him," Poroshenko said in televised comments shown in Ukraine.

Kiev, the West and some Russians accuse Moscow of sending troops to support separatist rebels who have risen up in east Ukraine, an accusation Russia has denied.

The organizers of Sunday's planned protest against the war decided to cancel it. Instead, Moscow city authorities agreed they could hold a march for up to 50,000 people to remember Nemtsov.

Nemtsov's criticism of Putin won him support among Moscow's intellectuals and the nascent middle class but he had little support outside the big cities.

Nemtsov was a fighter against corruption. In other reports, he condemned overspending on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics by the Russian authorities and listed the many state buildings, helicopters and planes that Putin has at his disposal.

He was also one of the leaders of the rallies in the winter of 2011-12 that became the biggest protests against Putin since he first rose to power in 2000.

Nemtsov briefly served as a deputy prime minister under Yeltsin in the late 1990s, after winning a reputation as a leading liberal economic reformer as governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region.

The opposition has failed to dent Putin's popularity even though many people feel the pain of Western economic sanctions over Ukraine, low oil prices and poor economic management.

Opposition blogger Alexei Navalny is serving a 15-day jail term. Kasparov is based in the United States and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, freed in late 2013 after a decade in jail, lives in Switzerland.

Some opponents say they fear for their lives. Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist, was shot dead outside her Moscow apartment on Putin's birthday in 2006. The person who ordered the killing has never been identified.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova, Vladimir Soldatkin, Denis Dyomkin, Polina Devitt and Thomas Grove, and by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and)


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