(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 for a murdered Jewish Kremlin critic.
The Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday unanimously approved plans to create Boris Nemtsov Plaza. It honors 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 Russian 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.
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.
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.