WASHINGTON – The U.S. capital’s city council took up legislation to rename a public square located in front of Russia’s Embassy in memory of the slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The effort is the latest push by Nemstov’s relatives and supporters, a move that has irked Moscow.
“This not about blame, this is not about poking anyone in the eye, this is about honoring the memory of our great compatriot,” Vladimir Kara-Murza, a longtime Nemtsov aide, told a city council hearing December 6.
A former deputy prime minister and longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nemtsov was gunned down on a bridge just meters from the Kremlin walls on February 27, 2015.
His slaying drew international condemnation and highlighted the dangers faced by Russians who oppose the Kremlin.
Nemtsov’s supporters have repeatedly sought to get permission for a formal plaque or monument to be placed at the site of his killing, but Moscow city officials have denied permission. Other supporters have on numerous occasions laid flowers at the site in makeshift memorials that are dismantled and taken away with unusual speed.
In July, a Moscow court found five men from Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya guilty of the murder and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.
A similar bill was introduced earlier this year in the U.S. Senate by Republican Marco Rubio; Washington’s federal status gives Congress more direct oversight of some aspects of the city’s management.
But that bill languished, and activists turned to the city council to push the effort.
Earlier this year, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized the effort, accusing U.S. lawmakers of "manipulating" the slain politician's name.
The council will have a second hearing in the coming weeks before a formal vote will be held, expected in early 2018.