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Rubio Wants Russian Embassy Street in D.C. Renamed for Slain Putin Critic

Former Russian prime minister and opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov, with his face covered with paint after he was attacked, takes part in a march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on Feb. 26, 2017. The poster reads: "We shall overcome!" (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wants to name the street in front of the Russian Embassy after an opposition leader murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin two years ago.

Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and co-chairman of the Republican Party of Russia-People’s Freedom Party, regularly called out Russian President Vladimir Putin for Kremlin corruption and openly speculated that Putin would one day try to kill him.

On the evening of Feb. 27, 2015, Nemtsov was shot to death just steps from the Kremlin and Red Square as he crossed a Moscow bridge. He was 55 years old.

Rubio introduced a bill Monday to designate the area between the intersections of Wisconsin Avenue NW and Davis Street NW, and Wisconsin Avenue NW and Edmunds Street NW in Washington as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza.”

“Two years ago, Boris Nemtsov was murdered on a Moscow bridge within view of the Kremlin, and no one has been held accountable,” Rubio said in a statement. “He was just one of Vladimir Putin’s critics who have wound up dead or hospitalized as the regime cracks down on any opposition and rules Russia with an iron fist.”

“Putin may hope Nemtsov’s murder deters dissent, but we must continue to support Russia’s pro-democracy movement so that does not happen.”

Rubio argued that renaming the street in front of the embassy “would permanently remind Putin’s regime and the Russian people that these dissidents’ voices live on, and that defenders of liberty will not be silenced.”

“It will also help raise awareness among the American people about the ongoing abuses in Putin’s Russia,” added Rubio. “Whether it is looking at a street sign or thousands of pieces of correspondence addressed ‎’1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza,’ it will be abundantly clear to the Kremlin that the intimidation and murder of opposition figures does not go unnoticed.”

On the second anniversary of Nemtsov’s murder Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft visited the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge to honor Nemtsov’s memory, said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

“Though Boris Nemtsov is gone, his spirit lives on in Russians young and old who seek to build a more democratic and prosperous society,” Toner said. “We call once more on the Russian government to ensure that those responsible for Boris Nemtsov’s killing are brought to justice.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who crafted the human rights sanctions against Russia after corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky died behind bars, said Nemtsov “was the definition of courage in defending the most fundamental rights of citizens in his beloved Russia, and I continue to grieve the loss of this steadfast partner, whom I had the honor of hosting in Washington numerous times.”

“The anniversary of his death is a reminder to redouble our efforts to stand against impunity and in support of all individuals in Russia to be able to freely exercise their rights without fear,” Cardin added. “As a trial of five suspects in his case proceeds, I call on the government of Russia to bring to justice in fair proceedings all those who organized and implemented this assassination.”