D.C. City Council Renames Street in Front of Russian Embassy After Slain Putin Opponent

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 — The District’s city council voted this week to rename the street in front of the Russian Embassy after a slain opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling the move “a symbolic recognition of the memory of Boris Nemtsov” and a signal of D.C.’s “commitment to democracy.”

Nearly a year ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation 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.”

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.

“Because this legislation faced an uncertain path in the Senate, Senator Coons and I looked outside the halls of Congress and enlisted the help of the D.C. City Council to implement this proposal as quickly as possible,” Rubio said Wednesday, citing his co-sponsor Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“I am proud that the D.C. City Council has approved plans to rename the street ‘Boris Nemtsov Plaza,’ and I thank Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Mary Cheh for their leadership,” Rubio added. “Starting on the third anniversary of Mr. Nemtsov’s assassination, there will be a sign in front of the Russian Embassy to remind Vladimir Putin and his cronies that they cannot use murder, violence, and intimidation to silence dissent.”

“It is my hope, and the hope of so many Russians fighting for a free and democratic future, that someday there will be a government in Russia that is proud to have Boris Nemtsov’s name outside of their embassy.”

After Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) blocked the Rubio-Coons bill in December, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she was not “aware” of an administration stance on the matter.

Russian politicians loyal to the Kremlin have groused that the D.C. City Council is trying to undermine Moscow with the move, calling the murdered Putin opponent an “enemy of our country.”

“We should rename the driveway in honor of the intrusive foreign policy of the U.S.,” Mikhail Degtyaryov, a State Duma deputy who suggested renaming the address of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow “Severoamerikansky Tupik, 1,” or “North American Dead End, 1.”