Russian ‘enemy list’ includes a DC Council member

On Saturday, the Russian government released a list of 963 Americans who are now banned from traveling to that country.

Most on the list were high-profile national figures, including President Joe Biden, hundreds of members of Congress, actor Morgan Freeman and even a member of the D.C. Council.

Mary Cheh, who represents Ward 3, didn’t even know about her inclusion at first.

“Somebody texted me and said, ‘congratulations for being on Putin’s hit list,’” she told WTOP.

Cheh comes in at number 911 on the list of nearly a thousand Americans. She says her inclusion was unexpected.

“I assume that I am the most obscure person who was on that list,” said the veteran council member.

Cheh tweeted on Sunday she was “honored” to be among those who have been banned.

Russian officials have not cited a reason for her place on the list, but Cheh has some ideas on why she’s no longer allowed in that country.

Embassy of Russia in Washington, D.C.
D.C. Council member Mary Cheh thinks her efforts to rename a road outside the Russian Embassy along Wisconsin Avenue Northwest might have something to do with her being banned from Russia. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Cheh led the charge to rename a portion of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the Russian embassy after Boris Nemtzov, a Russian pro-democracy activist and political opponent of Vladimir Putin. He was assassinated in Moscow in 2015 — gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin.

“This man was protesting Russia’s then war with Ukraine,” Cheh said. “And it was days later that he was assassinated.”

“When people wanted to leave mementos, flowers or other things on the bridge to celebrate him and to remember him, every day they sweep away anything that was left in his name,” she said. “They were trying to effectively erase his memory.”

The D.C. Council officially renamed that portion of Wisconsin Avenue “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” in January of 2018.

Cheh said Russia, by placing her name on the list of banned U.S. citizens, will just remind Americans of Nemtsov.

“They’re trying to make everybody forget about Boris Nemtsov,” she said. “Now, we remember him, yet again.”

Cheh said being on Russia’s list has not changed any of her travel plans.

“One of the last places on earth I would want to go is Russia. And so nothing is lost,” she said. “I get something more … I get the honor of being on Putin’s list.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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