Russians came to pay their homage to one of their heroes. An almost never ending stream of friends and admirers solemnly filed past the casket of slain Russian opposition activist leader, Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov. Moscow’s Sakharov Centre (Сахаровский цент) hosted the goodbye to Boris Nemtsov today, 3 March 2015, that began at 10am and lasted into the afternoon. A steady stream of mourners filed past his casket as friends and opposition leaders offered eulogies to the slain activist.
His final tribute was marked by several international well-wishers being denied entry into Russia. Former UK Prime Minister John Major was allowed to attend the memorial, but several others were turned away. Latvian representative to the European Parliament Sandra Kalniete was turned back upon her arrival at Sheremetyevo airport, and the Speaker of the Polish Senate, Bogdan Borusewicz, was denied a visa.
Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, who is in jail for political activities, asked the court to all him to attend the funeral. The court scheduled a hearing to consider his request on Wednesday, a day after the funeral. Navalny’s wife, Yulia, stood near members of the Nemtsov family. Nemtsov’s associate Konstantin Yankauskas is under house arrest, but he was allowed to attend the service.
Notably absent was anyone from the Putin administration. Mr. Putin sent Garry Minkh, his Duma (parliament) representative to extend condolences. There were several prominent former government officials in attendance, including Aleksei Kudrin, a Putin adviser and former Minister of the Treasury. Kudrin has moved toward the opposition in recent times.
Russia’s third richest man, and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, spoke of Nemtsov’s dedication to democracy. Prokhorov is an opposition moderate and a former Russian presidential candidate. Another former prime minister of Russia, Mikhail Kasyanov, has joined the opposition and spoke at the memorial. Kasyanov told those gathered that Nemtsov had “become an enemy for many people. He became an enemy because he spoke the truth.”
One sensed that many of those present were not only there to remember a friend, but were making a statement. Several of the speakers laid the blame for Nemtsov’s death on the environment of intense nationalism encouraged by the government.
US Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft represented the United States. The scene of the memorial viewing was the Sakharov Centre, named for famed dissident Andrei Sakharov. The Kremlin has named the centre as a “foreign agent” under new laws meant to silence opposition to the Putin government.
The circumstances surrounding Nemtsov’s cold-blooded murder remain a mystery. He was gunned down while walking on a bridge near Red Square. Oddly, surveillance cameras had been turned off “for repairs,” and a street sweeping truck appeared to have stopped just long enough to block remaining cameras just as the shooting took place. Immediately following the murder, President Putin took over the investigation personally as police were raiding Nemtsov’s home. Computers and boxes of documents were confiscated.
Following the viewing memorial, funeral services and Nemtsov’s burial was conducted at Moscow’s Novo-Kuntsevskoye (Troyekurovskoye) cemetery, the same resting place where murdered journalist Anna Politkovskayta was buried in 2006. The mother of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin is also buried there.
It was the birthday of Nemtsov’s mother; She turned 88 on the day of her son’s funeral.