In Washington, Putin's Diplomats Will Work by a Street Named After a Murdered Kremlin Critic

A woman lays flowers late on February 27, 2016 at the spot where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, on the one-year anniversary of Nemtsov's assassination. Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

In a tribute to a murdered critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Washington D.C. has renamed a street by the Russian Embassy "Boris Nemtsov Plaza."

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and one of the most prominent critics of Putin, was shot several times in the back while walking to his Moscow home one night, three years ago this month.

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The sight of the renowned opposition figure, murdered near the walls of the Kremlin, became emblematic of the dangers faced by those who speak out against Putin's policies.

Washington D.C. City Council voted last month to rename a stretch of Wisconsin Avenue after the late politician. The Boris Nemtsov Foundation announced this week that the rebranded street will officially be unveiled with a ceremony on the anniversary of Nemtsov's death this month, Radio Liberty reported.

Legislators critical of Putin's foreign and domestic policies, such as Senator Marco Rubio, have supported the move.

"Let this serve as a reminder to Putin and his cronies that murder, violence, and intimidation will not silence dissent," he tweeted Wednesday after the ceremony was announced. Rubio thanked campaigners and supporters of the late Nemtsov who were involved in the renaming initiative.

The U.S. capital will not be the first to opt for honoring Nemtsov in this way, as cities in Europe have also pledged to name streets after him. Lithuania's capital Vilnius has voted in favor of naming a street, though a site has not yet been selected, while in Ukraine Kiev city Mayor Vitali Klitschko has also said he would like to do the same.

In Russia, authorities have been less enthusiastic about venerating Nemtsov as Putin has said he does not intend to fast-track efforts to name the bridge where Nemtsov was shot after him or put a commemorative plaque there. Volunteers maintain a tribute to Nemtsov in the spot where he died, though this has been repeatedly vandalized by nationalist groups. Tens of thousands of Russians have backed the initiative to install a small plaque in memoriam of Nemtsov on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky bridge.

Although the initiative was led by Nemtsov's personal friends, the Russian Foreign Ministry played down the prominence of the location and blamed American officals for using Nemtsov's name.

"Either this is an act of stupidity by those political forces that make such decisions in the U.S. or this is some kind of hellish cynicism," the ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said when the idea was first put on the council's agenda last year.