‘My father was murdered by Vladimir Putin’s agents because he predicted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’

When Nemtsova heard what had happened, she and her mother decided to travel to the scene. “It was not far away from my apartment, but it was raining and it was very cold, so I called a taxi to drive us there,” she says.  

“The radio was on and a news reporter was talking about my father’s assassination. The driver said something like: ‘Why do you care about that?’ I said: ‘I’m his daughter.’ And then there was silence because he did not expect that. 

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“But what he said speaks a lot about the prevailing mood in Russia before the recent conscription announcement. ‘Ukraine is not my back yard, these are things that we do not understand and it will not affect us. It was a very important and revealing moment for me. 

“When we got there, they had cordoned off the area, so you couldn’t get to the spot. They checked our passports. There was nothing to see because they had put my father’s body into a plastic bag and it was in an ambulance.” 

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The story behind Boris Nemtsov Place

The idea of naming the north London junction of Highgate Road, Highgate West Hill and Swains Lane after Boris Nemtsov came from Vladimir Kara-Murza, explains Georgia Gould, the leader of Labour-run Camden Council.

“He came to see me because we have the Russian Trade Delegation in the borough and London was a really important site for them,” says Gould.

“He’d gone around the local area and looked at potential locations. For me, it felt like a very small act we could take to support those risking their lives for democracy and freedom in Russia and fighting in Ukraine.”

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The junction in Highgate that will be named Boris Nemtsov Place (Photo: Google Streetview)
The junction in Highgate that will be named Boris Nemtsov Place (Photo: Google Streetview)

The borough has a history of supporting movements like this, she says, having named a street after Nelson Mandela in the 80s while the anti-apartheid campaigner was still in prison in South Africa. 

Kara-Murza approached Gould just before he returned to Russia in April, she says. “I asked: ‘Are you sure you should be going back if that’s a risk?’ He said that he couldn’t ask people in Russia to come out on the streets and to defend democracy if he wasn’t prepared to be there himself. 

“Very shortly afterwards, he was arrested. But he’s continued to support this from prison, which I think shows how much it it means.” His wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza will be attending Monday’s event on his behalf.

Evgenia Kara-Murza (Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP via Getty Images)
Evgenia Kara-Murza (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Some local residents are concerned about potential safety risks of the area becoming associated with anti-Putin campaigns and say the council’s consultation was insufficient. They point to allegations of a Russian plot to harm Prague’s mayor, Zdenêk Hřib, in 2020 after he supported the city renaming the square in front of the Russian embassy in honour of Nemtsov. 

Helen Rapley, who lives a short distance from the roundabout and is co-founder of the Highgate Village Green Preservation Society, says: “It’s just drawing attention to us. Boris Nemtsov has never been to Highgate, has nothing to do with Highgate… It’s completely unnecessary and possibly potentially dangerous.” 

She also feels that Camden’s renaming decision was a fait accompli as Monday’s event was announced before the consultation of local residents had ended, which Rapley says didn’t last long enough and should have allowed more ways to respond. 

Gould explains: “Because Evgenia was coming over to receive an award, we put some provisional plans in place. But we were really clear from the start that no final decision about whether the event should to go ahead would happen until after the consultation concluded.” 

She adds: “We followed the standard consultation process for any kind of naming like this. Of 130 people who came forward, 58 per cent were in support. I was written to by a number of Russian dissidents in Camden, who said how much this act meant to them in showing solidarity to the campaign for democracy.” 

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