Nemtsov joins the ranks of opposition leaders critical of Putin who have been mysteriously assassinated.
Russian politics has a long, dramatic history filled with assassinations, especially regarding opposition leaders and other threats to the head of state’s power. Boris Nemtsov, who served as first deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation under former President Boris Yeltsin and one of the founders of liberal opposition group Russia’s People’s Freedom Party, was killed Friday night.
On Sunday, Moscow police estimated 20,000 participants gathered in a demonstration in Moscow for the fallen leader, while other sources claim the number was closer to 70,000, according to Vice. The rally had already been scheduled for that day and was supposed to be lead by Nemtsov to protest Russia’s war in Ukraine and the worsening economic conditions in Russia. However, the rally took a different, quieter tone to mourn Nemtsov and question the motives of the unidentified attacker. Some theorize the attack was orchestrated by the Kremlin, while others say that Nemtsov was a “sacrifice” in order to put pressure on the Russian government.
During the rally, opposition politician Mikhail Kasyanov, who at one point served as prime minister under Putin, said he believed the killing would force people to reconsider their views and cause change in the country, according to the Guardian.
“I think this killing has exploded the minds of people and forced people to rethink the reality in which we live,” he said. “The tragic death of Boris should be a turning point in our society, for those people who are not indifferent to what is happening in our country… I am certain that the situation will change within the next few months. Changes are inevitable.”
Nemtsov’s reforms in the 1990s and his close relationship with Yeltsin led many to believe the young, charismatic reformer would be Yeltsin’s successor; however, his popularity took a huge blow following the crash of the Russian stock market in 1998. Nemtsov was an active, vocal critic of President Putin almost immediately after Putin took power.
“I love Russia and want the best for her, so for me criticizing Putin is a very patriotic activity because these people are leading Russia to ruin,” Nemtsov said in an interview in 2011 on the Meduza news site, according to the New York Times. “Everybody who supports them in fact supports a regime that is destroying the country, and so they are the ones who hate Russia. And those who criticize this regime, those who fight against it, they are the patriots.”