The Russian government recently released a list of 963 Americans no longer allowed to visit the country, with two D.C. residents – one serving on the local legislative body and the other representing the District in the U.S. Congress – among the names.
D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton have been banned from traveling to Russia by the presidential administration of Vladimir Putin. When Cheh learned she had been blacklisted by the Russians, she expressed surprise.
“Somebody texted me and said, ‘congratulations for being on Putin’s hit list,’” said Cheh, who has represented Ward 3 on the council since 2007, WTOP reported.
The list became public on May 21 and largely had national figures including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as congressional leaders like Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.).
In addition to Norton, dozens of members of the Congressional Black Caucus count among those listed: House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Kwesi Mfume D-Md.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
District residents with jobs in the Biden administration such as Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council of the United States, and Reta Jo Lewis, president and chair of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, are also listed.
Cheh speculated her listing has to do with her advocacy for Boris Nemtsov, a pro-democracy activist in Russia. Nemtsov died of fatal gunshots in Moscow in 2015. The councilmember said Nemtsov protested Russia’s then aggression against Ukraine at an event and “days later he was assassinated.”
Cheh led the effort on the council to rename a portion of Wisconsin Avenue NW in front of the Russian embassy after the slain activist. She said when flowers or other mementos would be placed in front of the embassy in Nemtsov’s honor, they quickly disappeared. The council officially renamed that portion of the avenue, Boris Nemtsov Plaza, in January 2018.
Cheh, who will retire from council service in January, said she has no plans to visit Russia.
“One of the last places on earth I would want to go is Russia,” she told WTOP. “I get something more . . . I get the honor of being on Putin’s list.”
“I am one of the members of Congress, along with some administration officials, pleased to be on it,” said Norton, a member of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. “It shows the role Congress is playing in helping our friends against Russia’s inhumane interference.”