Thousands march in Moscow to mark two years since killing of Kremlin critic

Russians at Moscow march to honour opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin late in 2015

Thousands of Russians marched through the centre of Moscow on Sunday to honour opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, two years after the former deputy minister was gunned down near the Kremlin walls, and to call for further investigations into his killing.

The 55-year-old Nemtsov, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin late in the evening of February 27, 2015, as he walked home with his girlfriend from a restaurant.

Five men including a security services officer who reported to the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya are on trial for murdering the outspoken Putin critic but many – including lawyers for Nemtsov’s daughter – fear whoever ordered the killing will not be brought to justice.

Putin has said that he supported the investigation into Nemtsov's murder.

Police said 5,000 people had participated in the demonstration in the capital, but a group counting each person who passed the metal detectors at the beginning of the column said 15,200 had marched. Among them were prominent opposition leaders such as former PM Mikhail Kasyanov, who was assaulted before the march began.

“There are two components [of this march], the first is the commemoration of our comrade and my friend Boris Nemtsov, who was cruelly killed outside the Kremlin, and the second is the principles that we defined with Boris and our struggle so that Russia would be a real democratic state,” Kasyanov told the Guardian.

“We gathered here to demand bringing of Boris Nemtsov's killers to justice, not only its performers but also its organizers and those who ordered it,” Ilya Yashin, a Russian opposition activist and an organizer of the march, told Reuters.

“We gathered here to demand political reforms and release of political prisoners.”

Other cities also held Nemtsov marches, with a reported 2,000 people marching in St Petersburg.

The events coincided with the release from prison of the opposition activist Ildar Dadin after more than a year, during which time he made serious allegations of torture. He was the first person jailed under new rules that made some forms of non-violent protest a criminal offense.

The authorities blocked off several streets in central Moscow for Sunday's event, sealing in the marchers with metal fencing guarded by police.

Some carried roses to lay at the spot where Nemtsov was shot, on a bridge next to the Kremlin. A small group of nationalists with black, yellow and white Russian imperial flags also joined in the march.

Nemtsov had authored an excoriating report on Putin's rule and, shortly before he was killed, had been working on a report examining the Russian military's role in Ukraine.