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Washington, D.C., renames street outside Russian embassy after slain Putin opponent

People gather on Feb. 28, 2015, at the spot where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, near Saint-Basil's Cathedral, in the center of Moscow. The Washington, D.C., City Council voted Tuesday to rename a portion of the street outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation after Nemtsov. (2015 file photo/Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington, D.C., City Council voted Tuesday to rename a portion of the street outside the Embassy of the Russian Federation after one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's slain political opponents, The Hill reported.

What happened?

According to the BBC, Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Putin, was shot and killed outside the Kremlin in Moscow in February 2015.

In a statement, the District of Columbia Council said it voted unanimously to rename the block of Wisconsin Avenue outside the embassy "Boris Nemtsov Plaza." They characterized the move as an effort to protest Nemtsov’s murder and advocate for democracy on his behalf.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill last year in the Senate that also sought to rename the road after Nemtsov, but the city council later took up the issue. Rubio praised the city council's decision in a statement.

“I am proud that the D.C. City Council has approved plans to rename the street ‘Boris Nemtsov Plaza,’ and I thank Chairman [Phil] Mendelson and Councilmember Mary Cheh for their leadership,” he said. “Starting on the third anniversary of Mr. Nemtsov’s assassination, there will be a sign in front of the Russian Embassy to remind Vladimir Putin and his cronies that they cannot use murder, violence, and intimidation to silence dissent.

“It is my hope, and the hope of so many Russians fighting for a free and democratic future, that some day there will be a government in Russia that is proud to have Boris Nemtsov’s name outside of their embassy,” he added.

What did Nemtsov's family say?

The BBC reported that his daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, traveled to Washington last year to speak in favor of the move.

"The current Russian political regime wants to eradicate the memory of my father, since it believes — correctly — that symbols are important and that they can potentially facilitate and inspire change," she told the council at the time.

She called her father "an open-minded patriot of Russia" who deserved recognition.

"For now, we cannot do it in Russia because of unprecedented resistance on the part of the Russian authorities. But we have a chance to do it here — and here, it will be very difficult to dismantle," she said.

According to the BBC, five Chechen men were convicted in Nemtsov's murder last year, but the victim’s family and supporters believe an individual ordered the attack and remains at large.

What did the Russians say?

The move comes amid strained U.S.-Russian relations while investigators investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Dmitry Novikov, a Russian Communist Party politician, told Russia's Interfax news agency, "The U.S.  authorities have long been absorbed in their own game of interfering in Russian internal affairs."

The head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told Interfax that American politicians "specifically want to play dirty tricks in front of the Russian Embassy."

Putin did not immediately comment on the new address of his embassy. He previously denied involvement in Nemtsov's murder and pledged to personally oversee the investigation, The Guardian reported.

Several of Putin's critics have died under questionable circumstances.

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