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Thousands march for slain Nemtsov

Tens of thousands of people marched through Moscow, carrying flowers and tying black ribbons to railings in honour of slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

The marchers occasionally broke into chants of "Russia without Putin," or "Say no to war," but often the only sound was the steady noise of police helicopters overhead or the hum of police boats patrolling the shores of the Moscow River.

Tthe killing of Mr Nemtsov has shaken the Russian opposition, which sees the Kremlin as responsible, but it is unclear whether his death will be enough to invigorate the beleaguered movement. Despite the Ukraine conflict and Russia's economic crisis, support for President Vladimir Putin has been above 80% in the past year.

Since mass anti-Putin protests brought hundreds of thousands to the streets of Moscow in 2011 and 2012, Mr Putin has marginalised and intimidated his political opponents, jailing some, driving others into exile, and ramping up fines and potential jail time for those detained at protests.

Mr Nemtsov, 55, was among the few prominent opposition figures who refused to be cowed. But while many at the march expressed respect for his long political career and grief at his loss, few believed that his death would spark major change in Russia because of the Kremlin's control over national television, where a vast majority of Russians get their news.

"Maybe if 100 people were to die people would rise up, but I don't really believe in that," said Sergei Musakov, 22. "People are so under the influence of the (TV) box that they will believe anything that television tells them. If it tells them that terrorists from the Islamic State group came to Russia in order to blow up the fifth column, they'll believe it."

The Kremlin had identified Mr Nemtsov as among the leaders of a "fifth column," painting him and other opposition figures as traitors in the service of a hostile West.

About 30,000 people attended the march, making it the largest opposition rally in more than a year. The demonstrators bore Russian flags and signs that read "I am not afraid" or "Propaganda kills." At the site where Mr Nemtsov was killed, a pile of flowers grew by the minute.

Mr Nemtsov was gunned down shortly before midnight on Friday as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin. The killing came just hours after a radio interview in which he denounced Mr Putin's "mad, aggressive policy" in Ukraine.

At the time of his death, Mr Nemtsov was working on a report that he believed proved that Russian troops were fighting alongside the separatists in Ukraine, despite the official denials.

No one has been arrested in the killing. Investigators said they were looking into several possible motives and have offered 3 million rubles (£32,000) for information about the shooting.

TV Centre, a station controlled by the Moscow city government, broadcast a poor-resolution video from one of its web cameras that it said shows Mr Nemtsov and his date shortly before the killing.

The station, which superimposed its own time code on the footage, circled figures that it said were Mr Nemtsov and the woman walking across the bridge on a rainy night. A snowplough that moved slowly behind the couple obscured the view of the shooting.

TV Centre then circled what it said was the suspected killer jumping into a passing car.

Investigators said they were again questioning the woman, Ukrainian citizen Anna Duritskaya. Russian media have identified her as a model.

Fellow opposition activists said they hoped Mr Nemtsov's death would encourage people to take action, rather than intimidate them.

"Essentially it is an act of terror," said Ilya Yashin, an opposition leader and friend. "It is a political murder aimed at frightening the population, or the part of the population that supported Nemtsov or did not agree with the government. I hope we won't get scared, that we will continue what Boris was doing."

Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who joined the opposition, told the crowd the killing should be a turning point for Russia "for the simple reason that people who before thought that they could quietly sit in their kitchens and simply discuss problems within the family, now will start reconsidering everything that's going on in our country".

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had no intelligence on who was behind the shooting.

"The bottom line is we hope there will be a thorough, transparent, real investigation, not just of who actually fired the shots, but who, if anyone, may have ordered or instructed this or been behind this," he told Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

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