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MOSCOW — An almost mile-long line of grim-faced Russian mourners waited to pay their respects Tuesday to the most prominent opposition figure to be murdered during President Vladimir Putin’s rule. Many of the thousands of well-wishers clutched flowers as they lined up to enter the Sakharov Center in eastern Moscow where Boris Nemtsov’s body lay in state.
American Ambassador John Tefft was seen arriving, along with opposition politicians, the ambassadors of Germany, Austria and Finland and the daughter of former President Boris Yeltsin, Tatiana Dyachenko.
"Boris Nemtsov stood for the best in Russia," Tefft told the crowd as he delivered condolences from "the president and from all the American people."
Nemtsov's body was later carried out of the center - to shouts of "heroes don't die!" - and taken to Troekurovskoye cemetery in the west of Moscow for burial. About 100 mourners were present, along with almost twice as many reporters.
“Nemtsov is now a symbol of the divide that crosses the Russian society,” said 60-year-old Andrei Buzin, an activist in vote monitor Golos who came to the Sakharov Center to pay his respects. “He had integrity. Russia was not ready to have him as president, but many of the younger politicians worked with him, and have learned from him. So I have hope.”
Retired opposition politician Irina Khakamada, a Nemtsov ally from the 1990s, described Nemtsov as "one of the most charming, humane and kind-hearted opposition leaders."
The lines of mourners came after immense and angry crowds turned out to march through in Moscow on Sunday to honor Nemtsov, who was supposed to appear at the rally protesting Russia's role in the fighting in Ukraine. The event was converted into a memorial march after the 55-year-old was gunned down late Friday on a street just steps away from the Kremlin.