But Nemtsov’s friends say he was the victim of an atmosphere of hatred whipped up against anyone who opposes the president.
In a gesture of conciliation from the Kremlin, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich joined mourners filing into the hall where Nemtsov’s open casket was on display. Dvorkovich, from the Kremlin’s increasingly sidelined liberal camp, was carrying a bunch of red flowers.
For the most part though, the mourners were die-hard liberals who feel deep alarm at Nemtsov’s killing but who represent only a minority of the Russian population.
Polls show most Russians support President Putin, despite a plummeting rouble and international sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
“He (Nemtsov) was our hope,” said Tatyana, a pensioner queuing to pay her respects. “I feel like Putin killed me on the day he died. This last year has been full of suffering.”
Photographs of Nemtsov hung on the walls, and sombre music played. Former British Prime Minister John Major was among the mourners.
Lev Ponomaryov, a leading human rights campaigner, pointed the finger of blame at state media, which routinely describe Kremlin opponents as traitors.
He said: “If you look at what people say of the killing, the versions differ. Some blame Vladimir Putin, some don’t. But they all agree that Russian state television created this atmosphere that leads to this.”