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Thousands march in Russia to remember slain opposition leader

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russians lay flowers in Moscow on February 26, 2017 at the site where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead. (AFP photo)

Thousands have attended rallies in the Russian capital and other cities to remember Boris Nemtsov, a key opposition leader who was killed two years ago by unknown assailants in Moscow.

Police said 5,000 people attended the authorized event in the capital on Sunday which saw people carrying images of Nemtsov and shouting slogans in support of the slain opposition leader.

Organizers said at least 15,000 turned up in Moscow while similar rallies were held in St. Petersburg and Nemtsov's hometown of Nizhny Novgorod.

Nemtsov, a former prime minister, was killed on February 27, 2015, just outside the Kremlin. He was walking home when assailants shot him several times in the back. Many called the assassination a contract killing, saying he was a victim of his fierce criticism of President Vladimir Putin. The iconic figure, who was a Kremlin insider under former president Boris Yeltsin, fiercely opposed Putin’s policies on Ukraine.

People taking part in Moscow’s rally on Sunday, which was the largest opposition gathering since a similar memorial march for Nemtsov last year, praised the opposition leader for his bravery and said that he would not be forgotten.

“It's very important that after two years people continue to come out and show their solidarity with the ideas for which Boris Nemtsov fought for and gave his life,” said a friend and colleague of Nemtsov.

Supporters of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov hold flags and placards during a memorial march on February 26, 2017 in central Moscow, two years after Nemtsov was gunned down just yards from the Kremlin. (AFP photo)

Reports said clashes also erupted during the rally while police made several arrests. Officials also prevented the demonstrators from erecting a makeshift memorial at the spot Nemtsov was killed.

A military trial began last October for five men allegedly involved in Nemtsov's killing. The men, including a member of an elite Interior Ministry unit in Chechnya are accused of carrying out the killing for 15 million rubles (currently $250,000, 240,000 euros). Critics say the procedure should also include those who ordered the killing.

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