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Opposition Rally In Moscow To Mourn Boris Nemtsov

People hold flags and posters during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night.
Tatyana Makeyeva
People hold flags and posters during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night.

Updated at 10:08 a.m. ET

Tens of thousands of people are gathering in the Russian capital to mourn Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister turned harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin who was gunned down on a Moscow street last week.

The march, originally scheduled to oppose Russian involvement in Ukraine, was to have been led by Nemtsov himself. Following his murder, however, the gathering has turned into a wake for the fallen opposition leader.

NPR's Corey Flintoff, reporting from the rally in Moscow, says the demonstration is peaceful.

"It's certaintly one of the biggest demonstrations I've seen in Russia," Corey tells Weekend Edition Sunday.

"I don't know if it means that the political opposition can somehow coalesce now," Corey says. "I am not seeing a lot of political signs. People are carrying signs, but they tend to be closely focused on Boris Nemtsov himself."

As the BBC reports:

"Mr Nemtsov's allies call it a political killing linked to his opposition to Mr Putin and the Ukraine conflict.

"Opposition supporters are meeting at a point not far from the Kremlin, from where they will march to the spot on Great Moskvoretsky Bridge where Mr Nemtsov was killed."

Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement on Saturday "that investigators are currently working on two main theories: The murder was either an attempt to destabilize the political situation in Russia or was conducted by Islamic extremists in revenge for Nemtsov's stance over the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris," according to The Moscow Times.

However, as The Associated Press notes: "Whoever was responsible for the slaying, the signal it sends to Putin's foes is that if Nemtsov can be killed for his political activism then no one is safe. As a former deputy prime minister and longtime politician, he retained strong ties among Russia's political and business elite."

As we reported on Saturday, Western leaders have called on the Kremlin to allow an independent investigation of the shooting, but Putin has vowed to personally oversee the probe.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.