Washington and Moscow are trolling each other over street signs

If everybody gets their way, we may soon be living in a world where the Russian embassy in D.C. is located at “1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza,” and the American embassy in Moscow sits at “1 North American Dead End.”

Washington D.C. announced plans Wednesday to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy for assassinated Russian liberal politician Boris Nemtsov, a decision that prompted one Russian lawmaker to angrily propose giving the U.S. embassy in Moscow an insulting new official address.

If everybody gets their way, we may soon be living in a world where the Russian embassy in D.C. is located at “1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza,” and the American embassy in Moscow sits at “1 North American Dead End.”

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On Wednesday, the Council of the District of Columbia said in a statement it had voted unanimously to rename “the portion of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the Russian Embassy to honor slain democracy activist Boris Nemtsov.”

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Mikhail Degtyaryov, a Russian State Duma Deputy, fired back: “We should rename the driveway in honor of the intrusive foreign policy of the U.S.” Degtyaryov said he was preparing letters to Moscow city officials proposing the change.

Nemtsov, deputy prime minister under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was gunned down from behind in February 2015 in Moscow just steps away from the Kremlin in a murder his supporters maintain was never fully investigated. Nemtsov had helped lead protests in 2011-2012 against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and just a few days after he was killed, he had been due to join a demonstration against Russia’s role in conflict in Ukraine.

Nemtsov is just one of several prominent Putin critics to have been killed under questionable circumstances in recent years.

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The idea to change Russian embassy’s address was first floated in early 2017 by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced legislation on the change into the U.S. Senate. That bill eventually stalled before the idea was taken up by the city council.

At the time, Rubio said: “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.”

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This isn’t the first time the complicated relationship between Russia and the U.S. has spilled over into the world of municipal transportation.

In a reaction to new sanctions against Russia, Moscow revoked parking privileges for American diplomats in September, taking down signs outside the embassy building that had designated their special parking spots. The idea, apparently, was to punish American diplomats by forcing them to find parking spots in Moscow’s notoriously terrible traffic.