Sunday’s memorial march for Boris Nemtsov was a success for the opposition, prompting the government to claim that only five to seven thousand people showed up to march in Moscow. A few hours later the police admitted that the original number had come from the first wave of marchers.
The main rally started about two hours late due to everyone exiting Metro stations for the rally were required to go through x-ray screening, just like in airports. The march got off to a very late start as police required everyone exiting the Metro stations to go thru x-ray screening, just like at airports, before they could enter the march lines, a fact verified by police and overhead photo drones.
Moscow police revised their estimate a few hours later, claiming 21,000 persons had made it though the security inspection. However later in the evening, police contacted media saying that they were revising numbers again, and at this writing those new numbers are not available.
The BBC estimated the crowd at nearly 100,000 and Aljazeera Network counted approximately 70,000+. Trusted photographer Ilya Varlamov, with his overhead drone photo technology, says software estimates 51,600 of just the second phase of the march.
Thousands also marched in other Russian cities, many carrying blue and gold Ukrainian flags. The rally in Saint Petersburg was attended by approximately 10,000 marchers. Protesters across the nation carried flowers, and many tied black ribbons atop the Russian flags they carried.
Despite light rain in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the marches were somber evens for the most part. Some smaller groups among the marchers shouted chants, but the most constant noise was the sound of overhead police helicopters. Television and radio crews weaved through the crowd, looking for familiar faces to interview.
Just two days prior to his murder, Nemtsov has been scheduled to lead a protest rally in Moscow. The original petition for by organizers was to rally against the Putin governments role in the Ukraine war, against ongoing government corruption, and to protest rising inflation brought on by the governments “reverse sanctions” which ban import of Western food products. Organizers changed the focus of the rally after Nemtsov’s murder.
The police presence was very high but the march was peaceful, at times even taking on somber tones. Police so far are reporting 21 arrests, with 20 youth nationalists detained for attempting to harass older persons in the crowd. One other arrest has been reported: Oleksiy Goncharenko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv (Kiev), was arrested after he was recognized by police.
Goncharenko claimed that he was picked out of the crowd because of his shirt, which had a photo of Nemtsov with the phrase “Heroes Never Die!” Russian police say that investigators may hold the parliamentarian on murder charges stemming from a deadly fire that took place in Odessa (Ukraine) during a pro-Russian protest last year.