Russian Opposition Fearful Following Nemtsov Killing, but Rally Anyway

Thousands come out to protest.


Tens of thousands came out in Moscow Sunday to mourn the assassination of opposition activist Boris Nemtsov, killed late Friday night. The march had already been planned as a protest. One assumes it still served this purpose, tinged with grief. Here's how The Washington Post described the mood at the rally:

But although the numbers appeared to rival some of the largest protests during a wave of opposition rallies three years ago, few retained their old hopes for change. Instead, many said they felt more vulnerable than ever after a year in which intimidating and fervent support for Putin following the annexation of Crimea carried an implicit threat against those who disagree.

Those who braved Sunday's gloomy weather said that the Friday night slaying was a frightening sign that people who disagree with Russia's aggressive mainstream risk their lives for saying so publicly. Many said they were now cautious about what they shared with their colleagues or published on social media.

"They really want to instigate fear. And they have been partially successful at doing that," said Vladimir Milov, a politician who had worked with Nemtsov in recent weeks to organize an opposition rally that transformed into memorial after the murder late Friday night. Milov said that many Kremlin critics were now thinking about leaving Russia, convinced that killers would soon come for them, too.

Newsweek has posted what it is calling a final interview with Nemtsov. It's not clear whether this is actually the last interview by Nemtsov before the assassination, but the writer says the interview took place just a "few hours" before he was gunned down in Moscow. Here's how Nemtsov described the type of fascism developing under Vladimir Putin there:

Someone once said that the future fascists will be ardent anti-fascists. Fascism in Ukraine? Nonsense! Let's look at Russia. We have one party built on the cult of a leader, plus some irrelevant satellite parties. Every few years there is a pathetic parody of an election. We have a chauvinistic and aggressive foreign policy, a reheating of imperial complexes, the militarization of society. These are the characteristics of a fascist regime, aren't they? But Putin is not a fascist. He just cynically uses some elements of the past, mixes them with others—for example with Soviet traditions—and the hybrid is born, the contemporary hybrid fascism. It's like the war in Ukraine. The war is going on, Russian soldiers are there, but the Kremlin denies it and pretends [the government] has nothing to do with these tanks and regiments in Donetsk. The same is true of fascism—it exists in Russia, but the authorities say that we are fighting the fascism in Ukraine. If we do not stop this madness, the consequences for all of us will be devastating.

Read the full interview here. What actually happened to Nemtsov is still under investigation, but the state-controlled media is already in full swing, focusing on how the West hates Russia and how they'll use this death to further attempt to punish the country and its citizens.