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Thousands March In Moscow In Memory Of Murdered Putin Critic


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Thousands of people are gathered in central Moscow today for a march in remembrance of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The prominent politician made his mark in the early post-Soviet era and was once seen as a likely heir to Boris Yeltsin. He later became one of Vladimir Putin's sharpest critics. This past Friday, Nemtsov was gunned down as he crossed a bridge in view of the Kremlin. NPR's Corey Flintoff is in Moscow at today's march. He joins us now on the line. Corey, just describe where you're at right now. What's the scene you're taking in?

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. I am standing on the bridge where Boris Nemtsov was shot on Friday night. And it's - I'm right at the end of the bridge. We're watching probably the end of this enormous march; it's passing by right now. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people - it's certainly one of the biggest demonstrations I've seen here in Russia - have been moving along, this very slow-moving mass. I see hundreds and hundreds of Russian flags. And they're all strung with black ribbon as kind of a sign of mourning. But normally, in opposition marches like this, you don't see these huge masses of Russian flags. And I think this is - it's as if people are trying to take back the Russian flag as a symbol, when it's been used so much by pro-regime people. As you know, there's been what's known as the anti-Maidan. That's a government-supported movement to stop big opposition demonstrations. In fact, the leaders of that group have said their goal is to stop any kind of opposition movement or demonstration like the one that basically ousted the government in Ukraine. They recently had a large demonstration here in downtown Moscow. And I think the fact that we're seeing so many Russian flags in this group seems to suggest that people are really trying to take that symbol back and show that it's a symbol of all the Russian people and not just pro-regime or anti-regime people.

MARTIN: It is, though, hard to ignore the political overtones to this - right, Corey? I mean, you said this is unusual, to see this many people out on the street. Yes, they're remembering this man; it's a march of remembrance. But what does it mean for the political opposition?

FLINTOFF: Well, you know, I don't know if it means that the political opposition can somehow coalesce now. One of the things that I'm seeing here is I'm not seeing a great many political signs. People are carrying signs, but they tend to be either closely focused on Boris Nemtsov himself - for instance, a lot of people are carrying signs that simply say one word, Boris. Now, a couple of young boys just walked past me. One was carrying a sign that said, I'm not afraid. A little girl was carrying a sign that said, propaganda kills. A lot of people are carrying a sign that simply says, no words - no words. And people have been very quiet. And so I'm not seeing this as being, you know, a partisan march in any way.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there, Corey. NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow, wrapping up the scene for us of a remembrance march taking place right now. Thanks so much, Corey.

FLINTOFF: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.