Europe

Nemtsov: Prague denies renaming square to troll Moscow

Boris Nemtsov Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in February 2015 as he walked through central Moscow with his girlfriend

Politicians in Prague have denied they are trolling Moscow by renaming a square in memory of Boris Nemtsov - a murdered critic of President Putin.

The square houses the Russian embassy.

Mr Nemtsov was shot dead in 2015. Prague will also rename a park promenade after Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist killed in 2006.

"Both personalities promoted democracy and they both were disgracefully murdered. They deserve a memorial," tweeted Prague's Mayor Zdenek Hrib.

The square is currently known as "Pod Kastany Namesti" ("Under the Chestnuts Square"). The official renaming ceremony will take place on 27 February, marking five years since Mr Nemtsov's death.

In theory, Russian diplomats will have to update their address to accommodate the new name. There has been no comment yet from the Russian Embassy.

Mr Nemtsov's daughter Zhanna plans to attend the naming ceremony.

"It's very, very important to keep the name in the public domain, for the next political leadership of Russia to have the responsibility to investigate this murder, to have it on the agenda," CNN quoted her as saying.

Those behind the idea denied it was an attack on Moscow, pointing out that Russian authorities had officially condemned Mr Nemtsov's murder.

"We are doing this because support for human rights and democracy has been a key priority of Czech foreign policy since Václav Havel became president," said Petr Kutilek, a Green Party councillor who first put forward the renaming idea in 2016.

"It's been rather weakened in the past seven or eight years."

The Russian embassy in Prague will be the fourth to find itself located near an address relating to Mr Nemtsov.

There are streets named after the former Russian opposition leader in Washington DC, Kyiv and Vilnius. When the Washington street was announced, one Russian MP labelled the name change "a dirty trick".

Who was Boris Nemtsov?

Mr Nemtsov rose to political prominence in the 1990s as a liberal reformer and deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin.

His political fortunes waned when Vladimir Putin took over the presidency, but he became an important opposition force as anti-Putin protests erupted in 2011.

He was openly critical of Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. On the night before his death, he took part in a radio interview in which he backed a protest march.

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Media captionPeople march through central Moscow in memory of Nemtsov

Mr Nemtsov's allies accused the Kremlin of involvement in his death. Mr Putin condemned the murder as "vile" and vowed to find the killers.

In the days after his death, thousands of people marched through central Moscow. They carried portraits of Mr Nemtsov and banners saying "I am not afraid".

Five Chechen men were convicted over Boris Nemtsov's killing in mid-2017, but family and supporters of the slain politician believe the person who ordered the murder remains at large.

Who was Anna Politkovskaya?

Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and vocal critic of Russia's war in Chechnya, was shot in a lift in her block of flats in 2006.

She worked for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and won international renown for her dogged investigation of Russian abuses in Chechnya.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anna Politkovskaya was a senior investigative reporter, and a critic of Russia's actions in Chechnya

But her pieces, which were highly critical of President Vladimir Putin, then serving his second term, and the Chechen leadership, angered many in authority.

In 2013, a former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for supplying the murder weapon.

Five men were found guilty of her murder. Those who ordered her assassination have never been identified.

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