Congress is moving forward with an effort to rename the Washington, D.C., street in front of the Russian embassy after an anti-regime dissident who was mysteriously murdered due to what many believe was his outspoken criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday passed a bill to rename the street in front of the Russian Embassy after Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Russian physicist and democratic political reformer who publicly battled with Putin. Nemtsov was shot in the back multiple times in 2015 in what many believe to be a political assassination.
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The Senate's legislation, led by Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), would rename the street in front of the Russian embassy Boris Nemtsov Plaza. The embassy's address would then become 1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza. All correspondence and other official communication would bear this address.
"Boris Nemtsov dedicated his life to the cause of freedom and human rights for the Russian people" Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), a backer of the bill, told the Washington Free Beacon following the Senate committee's successful vote on the issue. "His murder was a tragedy for his country and the world."
"The creation of ‘Boris Nemtsov Plaza' will send a message to the Putin regime that the United States will continue to provide leadership and support to those who press for liberty in their own lands," Johnson said.
The legislation is certain to irritate Moscow, which would be forced to change the embassy's address to Boris Nemtsov Plaza. All correspondence and other official communication also would bear this address.
One senior congressional official working on the matter told the Free Beacon that there is broad bipartisan support for the renaming effort.
"Boris Nemtsov was a friend of many members on both sides of the aisle, and after his death there's been broad bipartisan support to ensure his cause didn't die with him," the source said. "This is just one way to hold Putin's feet to the fire and make sure that everyone doing business with the embassy remembers the atrocities committed by his regime."
Rubio, who has been pushing the legislation forward, said it is part of an effort to let Putin know that pro-democracy reformers in his country will not be silenced.
"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 when announcing the legislation earlier this year. "Whether it is looking at a street sign or thousands of pieces of correspondence addressed ‘1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza,' it will be abundantly clear to the Kremlin that the intimidation and murder of opposition figures does not go unnoticed."
Prominent Russian dissidents have welcomed the move, describing it as a major symbolic show of support from the U.S. for reformers in Moscow.
"There will come a day when Russia takes pride in having Boris Nemtsov's name on its embassy letterhead," Vladimir V. Kara-Murza, vice chairman of the Open Russia movement and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, wrote in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post. "It will also be grateful to those who, in difficult times, did not allow it to forget."