The District of Columbia’s city council has voted to rename the street outside the Russian Embassy after a Russian opposition figure who was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015. A “portion of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the Russian Embassy” will now be known as Boris Nemtsov Plaza, according to the D.C. Council.
Reaction was swift from Russian politicians with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a prominent Russian national party leader, condemning the move as the U.S. playing “dirty tricks in front of the Russian Embassy,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. On Wednesday, the state-run TASS news agency quoted the anger of Mikhail Degtyaryov, a State Duma deputy.
“We should rename the driveway in honor of the intrusive foreign policy of the U.S.,” Mr. Degtyaryov said. According to the Moscow Times, another Duma deputy suggested that the address of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow should be renamed as “Severoamerikansky Tupik, 1,” translated from Russian as “North American Dead End, 1.”
The D.C. Council approved the change during a unanimous vote on Tuesday to honor Mr. Nemtsov, a “slain democracy activist” according to a statement. The renaming of a portion of 2650 Wisconsin Avenue to “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” will occur on February 27, the third anniversary of the politician’s death, Mr. Nemtsov’s close associate Vladimir Kara-Murza wrote in a Facebook post.
Under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, Mr. Nemtsov enjoyed a successful political career. He then became a well-known and vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Moscow in February 2015, he was shot in the back four times while walking home after dining in a restaurant.
His death shocked opposition politicians across Russia and a small memorial near where he was killed has frequently been vandalized at night. In early December his daughter, Zhanna, traveled to Washington and appeared before the city council to advocate for the name change. “The current Russian political regime wants to eradicate the memory of my father, since it believes — correctly — that symbols are important and that they can potentially facilitate and inspire change,” she told the council at the time.
Last year, five Chechen men were convicted of Mr. Nemtsov’s killing. But his family and supporters say the person who order the assassination has yet to be brought to justice. Mary Cheh, a city councilmember who co-sponsored the name change, was quoted by Radio Free Europe as saying, “there is little doubt that his murder was motivated by his political beliefs, his popularity, and his frequent and open criticism of the Russian government.”
She added that no-one in Washington would be able to remove the new signs that would soon memorialize Mr. Nemtsov. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, initially sponsored the name change as a bill in Congress, which has oversight of the capital city. When the bill went nowhere, he reached out to the D.C. Council, who took up the cause.