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Thousands line the streets of Moscow to pay last respects to slain Putin critic

Polish and Latvian officials were ‘barred’ from the funeral of assassinated Boris Nemtsov.

Updated 19.00pm

THOUSANDS OF MOURNERS turned out to the funeral of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow today.

Crowds thronged the Russian capital to mourn the 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, a longtime Putin critic and anti-corruption crusader who was laid to rest at a Moscow cemetery.

The funeral caused a fresh spat between Russia and the European Union, which condemned what it called “arbitrary” bans after Russia blocked prominent figures from Poland and Latvia from attending.

Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, and longtime Vladimir Putin critic and anti-corruption crusader was shot dead in central Moscow four days ago.

Russia Opposition A police stands by as people line up to pay their last respects at the coffin of Boris Nemtsov. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Russia Opposition Source: Pavel Golovkin

In 1997, The New York Times profiled Nemtsov after he was promoted to deputy prime minister.

Discussing the challenges the new first deputy prime minister would face in Moscow, the director of an economic consulting firm described the job as potentially “suicidal.”

“Many say it is a suicidal job and it will be his last political post,” Pavel Chichagov, the director of the Epicenter economic consulting firm, told The Times.

”There is something to that. But he has often faced resistance. And if history repeats itself you can’t exclude that he may be quite successful in government.”

According to The Times, “Nemtsov’s vow to crack down on energy and transportation monopolies, find ways to pay pensions and fight endemic corruption means he will have to confront economic quandaries few in Russia have had the courage to tackle.”

A liberal critic of Vladimir Putin, Nemtsov first became involved in Russian national politics in 1997, when he was named First Deputy Prime Minister by then-President Boris Yeltsin. Nemtsov was best known at the time as a regional governor and a notable free-market reformer.

Nemtsov himself also acknowledged the potential dangers of his appointment in Moscow.

”It is obvious that I will make a huge number of enemies among the industrial and financial oligarchy that now in many respects controls the situation in Russia,” [Nemtsov] said in a television interview quoted by The Times.

”As to what I have to do in Moscow now, that is the function of a kamikaze.”

Russia Opposition Source: AP/Press Association Images

Today, as thousands turned out to pay their respects, Polish Senate speaker Bogdan Borusewicz was refused entry by Moscow in reprisal for EU sanctions against Russia’s upper house of parliament speaker Valentina Matviyenko, the Polish foreign ministry said.

Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete told AFP she had also been refused entry into Russia at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, but was not given a reasonable explanation for the ban.

“Since I have always taken a clear and explicit language on Russia’s role in Ukraine, I had suspicions that it could happen,” she said.

Russia Opposition A man speaks to his child next to votive candles. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Pawlik will attend the funeral, according to Polish media, while Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius will also be present, his spokesman said.

Killing

Boris Nemtsov death Source: Laura Lean

Nemtsov was gunned down shortly before midnight on Friday while walking across a bridge just a short distance from the Kremlin with his Ukrainian model girlfriend Ganna Duritska.

Putin, whose rule has seen the steady suppression of independent media, non-Kremlin controlled political parties and opposition-minded business figures, called the murder a “contract killing” and said it was a provocation.

Soon after the killing, Putin promised an all-out effort to catch the perpetrators.

Girlfriend returns to Kiev

Late Monday 23-year-old Duritska — the chief witness in the murder — arrived in Kiev, her lawyer confirmed, as authorities vowed to solve the most shocking political assassination to take place during Putin’s rule.

Russia Opposition Source: AP/Press Association Images

On Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged that the “heinous crime” would be “fully investigated”.

A reward of three million rubles ($48,000) was offered for information on Nemtsov’s death, a substantial amount in Moscow, where the average monthly salary is 60,000 rubles ($960).

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Duritska said earlier Monday she had given all the information she could to investigators but that they were preventing her from leaving Russia, citing concerns for her security.

Ganna’s mother Inna Duritska, who lives in Kiev, told AFP prior to Ganna’s departure from Russia that she feared that her daughter’s de facto house arrest meant investigators might be preparing to make her a pawn in the deepening Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Boris Nemtsov death Source: Laura Lean

Friends of Nemtsov said he had been working on a report containing what he described as proof of secret Russian military involvement in the bloody uprising by pro-Moscow militias in eastern Ukraine.

He had also spoken of his fear of being killed in Russia, where a string of other prominent opposition figures have been murdered since Putin came to power 15 years ago.

But there was no imminent sign of danger on Friday when he was fatally shot in the back, Duritska — who was uninjured in the apparently well-planned shooting — said earlier.

Speaking via Skype from a Moscow apartment, Duritska said she did not see where the assassin came from. But she did notice a light-coloured car quickly drive off, she said.

She said she was immediately taken in for questioning which lasted through the night.

‘A sacrifice’

France Russia Nemtsov Source: AP/Press Association Images

Shocked opposition figures in Russia and Western leaders have called for a full and transparent probe into the murder of Nemtsov.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people joined a memorial march in Moscow.

The Investigative Committee leading the probe has offered several possible motives, including that the country’s opposition could itself have ordered the hit on Nemtsov as “a sacrifice”.

The murderer — or murderers — fired four bullets into Nemtsov’s back and several more were found at the scene.

- © AFP, 2015 Additional reporting Business Insider

Read: ‘He died for Russia’s future’: Tens of thousands march to honour Boris Nemtsov>

Read: Putin vows to punish killers of Kremlin critic, as opposition condemns “political murder”>

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