Thursday January 11, 2018

Washington, D.C., names street outside Russian embassy after slain Putin critic

Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed on a bridge in Moscow in 2015. Now Washington, D.C., is naming a section of a street after him.

Boris Nemtsov was shot and killed on a bridge in Moscow in 2015. Now Washington, D.C., is naming a section of a street after him. (Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images)

Listen 6:05

Read Story Transcript

Washington, D.C., has voted to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy in honour of Boris Nemtsov, a pro-democracy advocate who was murdered near the Kremlin three years ago.

The motion, which passed unanimously, bestows the name Boris Nemtsov Plaza to the section of Wisconsin Avenue that houses the embassy.

The name change is "ceremonial," meaning the embassy's formal address won't change. Instead, the new name will appear on a street sign underneath the official name.

​"I want to send a message to Russian lovers of democracy ... that we in the United states and people around the world are not going to forget Boris Nemtsov's contribution and sacrifice of his life for the effort," Coun. Mary Cheh, who proposed the name change, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

The new name will be unveiled at a ceremony on Feb. 27, the third anniversary of Nemtsov's assassination. 

AFP_JI6PY

The Russian embassy on Wisconsin Avenue will not undergo a formal address change because of the 'ceremonial' re-naming. (Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images)

Nemtsov, an opposition politician and vocal opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot and killed on a bridge near Moscow's Red Square in February 2015. 

At the time, he was working on a report examining Russia's role in Ukraine. 

His killing sent a chill through opposition circles.

RUSSIA-NEMTSOV/

People take part in a rally in memory of Nemtsov on the first anniversary of his murder in Moscow on Feb. 27, 2016. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Five men were convicted last year for his murder, but the late politician's allies said the investigation had been a cover-up and the people who had ordered his killing remained at large.

In 2016, Nemtsov's daughter Zhanna Nemtsov told As It Happens the investigation into her father's death had been "blocked for political reasons."

"High-ranking politicians put pressure on the investigative team not to investigate it thoroughly and objectively," she said at the time.

Cheh said she was inspired to honour Nemtsov when she learned that Russian authorities had removed a plaque erected in his memory from the bridge where he was killed.

​"I wanted to say by doing this here, we won't forget. No one's going to remove it here. The idea of wiping away his sacrifice, it won't succeed here," she said.

"These things are known around the world and we want to make sure his sacrifice is not forgotten."

Mary Cheh

Washington Coun. Mary Cheh says she wants to honour Nemstov's sacrifice in the fight for democracy. (marycheh.com)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN the street name change comes "at a time when the state of bilateral relations between our two countries still leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly."