WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council is working on legislation that would, in effect, publicly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin by changing the name of a section of street outside the Russian Embassy to honor pro-democracy Russian leader Boris Nemtsov.
If the bill passes, the stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest D.C., between Davis and Edmonds streets, would be known as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza.”
Nemtsov, a top opponent of Putin, was assassinated in Moscow in 2015. He was gunned down on a bridge within sight of the Kremlin.
At the time of his death, he was working on a report about Russia’s military involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine and in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The report was released three months later.
“We want to signal our support for those who have been fighting for human rights and democracy,” said Council member Mary Cheh, who sponsored the bill.
The embassy would not officially get a new address, but a street sign bearing the new name would be added under the Wisconsin Avenue sign.
“It seems quite clear that he was assassinated because of his efforts on behalf of democracy,” Cheh said. “The idea is to honor him for his work and for his sacrifice.”
Cheh decided to pursue the proposal following a discussion with members of the U.S. Senate, including Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Christopher Coons,D-Del., who had been trying to pass the bill on Capitol Hill.
“We learned that similar legislation was introduced in the Senate but was going nowhere,” explained D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “We have the ability to move more quickly, so we agreed that we would move the legislation through the council.”
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for next week Wednesday.
In July, the man convicted of killing Nemtsov, Zaur Dadayev, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Four others convicted in connection with the assassination were sentenced to terms ranging from 11 to 19 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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