District of Columbia approves plan to rename street adjacent to Russian embassy for slain Jewish Kremlin crtitic


(JTA) — In a move that Russian officials called a provocation, city authorities in Washington D.C. advanced the naming of a street adjacent to the Russian embassy street for a murdered Jewish Kremlin critic.

The Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday unanimously approved plans to create Boris Nemtsov Plaza in honor of the former deputy prime minister, an opponent of President Vladimir Putin who was assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015. Nemtsov was Jewish. Mayor Muriel Bowser still needs to approve the bill for it to go into effect.

“The portion of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the Russian Embassy [will be renamed] to honor slain democracy activist Boris Nemtsov,” the District of Columbia Council said on its website Tuesday.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, called the plan “rude, harsh and done to spite us”, adding: “The anti-Russian flywheel cranked up by the Obama administration continues to turn,” the TASS news agency reported.

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The language of the bill passed by the council praises Nemtsov’s opposition to Putin specifically and alleges that Nemtsov’s 2015 slaying was over that criticism. Last year, five men from Chechenia were given lengthy prisons sentences for killing Nemtsov, though some critics of the Kremlin called the trials a cover up.

“When Mr. Putin rose to power and began dismantling the country’s fragile new institutions, Nemtsov became a determined opponent,” the background section for the bill reads. “There is little doubt that his murder was motivated by his political beliefs, his popularity, and his frequent open criticism of the Russian government.”

Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the international affairs committee in the upper house, said that Moscow should accept the decision “calmly” but added: “It’s clear that the calculation was that this decision would provoke anger” in Russia.

Council member Mary Cheh was the first to introduce in 2016 the legislation that led to the Street name change, according to Michael Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin critic who left Russia in 2013 after he was pardoned and released from jail on corruption charges, which critics said were trumped up by the Putin regime.

The square will now be known as Boris Nemtsov Plaza, making the Russian Embassy’s new address No. 1, Boris Nemtsov Plaza,” wrote Khodorkovsky, who also is Jewish.

The council’s vote follows an earlier bid by Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who advanced the renaming of the portion of the street of the Russian embassy in Congress, before kicking it over to municipal authorities.

“The creation of ‘Boris Nemtsov Plaza’ 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,” Rubio said in a statement last year.

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