As the Kremlin clock inched toward midnight and the ice-bound river beneath their feet melted, a group of Russians silently stood on the bridge where Boris Nemtsov, the Putin critic and opposition leader, was killed nearly a year ago.
«This is about remembering,» Boris Kazadayev, 73, part of the small crowd, told Reuters. «If there is no collective memory, the country won’t have a future.»
Moments later, a snow plough mounted the pavement forcing the crowd to the kerb. Two trucks then reversed within inches of people’s backs and trapped them before dumping piles of snow around them.
«Nemtsov Bridge» — activists’ nickname for the spot where the Putin opponent was shot dead on Feb. 27 last year — has become the scene of a cat-and-mouse struggle between the authorities and the liberal opposition who want to honor a man some Russians say the Kremlin would rather forget.
Supporters bring flowers for a makeshift shrine; the authorities sweep the site clean; his supporters rebuild. It’s a sequence that has played out repeatedly, in all weathers, for at least 300 days.
«It is a model of peaceful resistance that is unique for modern Russia,» said Olga Shorina, a Nemtsov ally.
«It has become a symbol of the fact that there’s a desire for an alternative.»