Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov memorial destroyed by vandals

MOSCOW (AFP) - Vandals Saturday destroyed an improvised memorial created by supporters of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on the bridge where he was shot a month ago, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported Saturday.

Supporters had regularly refreshed flowers and candles on the bridge next to the Kremlin where the 55-year-old former deputy prime minister and prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin was gunned down on February 27.

Early Saturday, around 10 men in black clothing hurriedly stuffed flowers, photographs and candles into rubbish sacks leaving the bridge bare, a video shot from a passing car and published on social media showed.

Despite the proximity to the Kremlin, police did not intervene.

"They raked up all the old and new flowers, candles and photographs," Natalya Pelevina, a member of the liberal RPR-Parnas party that Nemtsov co-chaired, wrote on Twitter. "They did it all very quickly and came at 2 am. Following orders, of course. It's vile and low."

Later on Saturday morning Nemtsov's supporters came to place fresh flowers, photographs and Russian flags at the spot, the chief editor of Echo of Moscow, Alexei Venediktov, wrote on Instagram.

It was the second attack on the memorial. Last week activists from a little-known nationalist group scrawled over a sign placed by supporters at the spot saying "Nemtsov Bridge" and left a note denouncing Nemtsov for his support for the pro-Western uprising in Ukraine. They then posted photographs of their actions on Facebook.

Russia has detained five suspects in the murder, accusing them of carrying out a contract hit, but has revealed few details of the investigation.

Investigators have suggested that the crime is linked to Nemtsov's support for French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, a claim rejected by his allies as absurd.

The prime suspect in the killing, former Chechen police officer Zaur Dadayev, initially confessed to the crime but later told a member of the Kremlin's rights council that he had been tortured into doing so.