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Yulia Navalnaya Screengrab/@yulia_navalnaya

Navalny's widow Yulia Navalnaya accuses Putin of killing her husband, vows to continue his work

Navalnaya’s statement came shortly before addressed foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 nations in Brussels.


ALEXEI NAVALNY’S WIDOW Yulia Navalnaya has accused President Vladimir Putin of killing her husband and vowed to continue his work, three days after he died in a Russian Arctic prison.

Russia’s prison service said in a short statement on Friday that Navalny had died “after a walk” in the IK-3 colony in the Arctic Yamal region – known as the “Polar Wolf”.

Navalnaya’s video address came as the Kremlin said an investigation into his death was “ongoing” and his mother Lyudmila was denied access to his body for a third day.

“Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband Alexei Navalny,” she said in a video address on social media. 

“Alexei died in a prison colony after three years of torment and torture,” she said.

Navalnaya’s statement came shortly before addressed foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 nations in Brussels.

“I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny. I will continue to fight for the freedom of our country,”  Navalnaya said. “And I call on you to stand by me.”

“Putin took from me the most valuable thing that I had, the closest and most loved person. But Putin also took Navalny from you,” the 47-year-old said.

Navalnaya stood by her husband as he galvanised mass protests in Russia, flying him out of the country when he was poisoned before defiantly returning to Moscow with him in 2021, knowing he would be jailed.

The announcement she will replace Navalny is a momentous and unpredictable turn for Russia’s exiled and beleaguered opposition, which has been left leaderless after Navalny’s death.

It comes just one month ahead of a presidential election in Russia, with Putin running with no real challengers.

Navalnaya said her husband’s team knew “concretely for what” Navalny was killed and said they would work to “find out the names” of those who they say murdered him.

The Kremlin earlier today said there were “no results” from an “ongoing” Russian investigation and slammed Western accusations.

“At the moment, the results of the investigation have not been released, they are unknown,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

He decried Western statements that the Kremlin was responsible for Navalny’s end as “absolutely unacceptable”.

Peskov refused to say how Putin – who has not commented on the death despite making public appearances since – reacted to his opponent dying.

Today Navalny’s spokesperson said that Russian investigators said they will keep his body for “at least two weeks” to examine his corpse. 

Kira Yarymsh described the move as a ploy by authorities. 

She said that investigators have told Navalny’s mother and his lawyers that they are not handing his body over in the next 14 days, and that they will conduct a “chemical analysis”. 

“I’ll say it again: Navalny’s body is being hidden to hide the traces of the murder. This 14-day ‘chemical analysis’ is an outright lie and mockery,” she said in a tweet.

EU meeting 

After meeting with Navalnaya today, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell today pledged that Putin would be held to account for Navalny’s death.

“We expressed the EU’s deepest condolences to Yulia Navalnaya. Vladimir Putin and his regime will be held accountable for the death of Alexei Navalny,” Josep Borrell wrote on X.

“As Yulia said, Putin is not Russia. Russia is not Putin. We will continue our support to Russia’s civil society and independent media.”

European diplomats said that Navalnaya reiterated her determination to keep up the struggle and called on the bloc to do more to target Putin’s circle – drawing a standing ovation from the room.

She also warned against striking any deals with the Russian leader or hoping that he would change, they said.

The EU has already imposed unprecedented sanctions on Moscow, including on Putin, over its invasion of Ukraine and officials concede it will be difficult to impose further major pain after Navalny’s death.

However, a host of European Union governments have summoned Russian diplomats today.

Norway, France, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands are among those who have summoned diplomats from Russian embassies. London had done the same Friday evening.

Borrell said that Brussels would rename its global human rights sanctions blacklist after Navalny in a symbolic move.

Mother denied access to morgue

Navalny’s allies said his mother Lyudmila was again denied access to a morgue in the Russian Far North.

“Alexei’s mother and his lawyers arrived at the morgue early in the morning. They were not allowed to go in,” Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social media.

“One of the lawyers was literally pushed out. When the staff was asked if Alexei’s body was there, they did not answer,” she added.

The mother has not spoken publicly and Russian officials have given no timeframe of when the body will be handed over.

Navalny’s team have accused authorities of dragging out the process to “cover up their tracks”.

Russian authorities detained hundreds of mourners who brought flowers to local monuments across the country over the weekend, rights groups said.

In Moscow today, AFP saw several people bring flowers to a monument to Soviet repression in memory of Navalny. One woman stood and cried, with a heavy police presence nearby.

“One for all,” read one note, quoting a slogan Navalny often used at protests.

Outside Russia, Russian emigres held vigils in European cities, where hundreds of thousands fled to after Moscow launched its Ukraine offensive.

With reporting from © AFP 2024