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Alexei Navalny’s widow vows to fight on and reveal how Putin killed her husband

Alexei Navalny’s widow has vowed to take over her husband’s work as she promised to reveal how Vladimir Putin killed the opposition leader.

Yulia Navalnaya accused the Russian authorities of blocking Navalny’s family from seeing his body in order to conceal the way he was killed.

“They’re now hiding his body, refusing to show it to his mother, refusing to hand it over. They’re lying, waiting for the traces of yet another Novichok of Putin’s to go away,” Ms Navalnaya added, referring to the regime’s habit of poisoning dissidents.

In a video posted on Twitter, Ms Navalnaya said she was taking over the cause of bringing democratic change in Russia to honour her husband’s memory.

I’m going to keep up with Alexei Navalny’s struggle,” a visibly distressed Ms Navalnaya said, adding that she knows how her husband was killed.

“We know exactly why Putin killed Alexei three days ago. We’re going to tell you soon,” she said.

“I’m going to keep struggling for our country and I’m asking you to stand by me and share not only the endless grief and pain that gripped us and won’t let go. I’m asking you to share the outrage, the anger and hatred for those who dared to kill off our future.”

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, walks with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Monday
Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, walks with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday - Yves Herman/Pool

Ms Navalnaya, who previously kept a low profile, said the only way to give meaning to her husband’s death was to keep his dream of a better Russia alive.

“I want to build this (new) Russia with you: That’s the only way this inimaginable sacrifice that he made will not be futile,” she said.

“I’m not scared so you shouldn’t be.”

EU foreign ministers were meeting Ms Navalnaya on Monday to send a “message of support” to Kremlin opponents, the bloc’s top diplomat said.

“We have to send a message of support to the Russian opposition,” Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, told journalists.

Mr Borrell said he expected EU member states to propose fresh sanctions on those directly responsible for Navalny’s treatment, including those in Russia’s prison system.

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He also said Brussels would look to rename its global human rights sanctions blacklist after Mr Navalny.

Three days after Mr Navalny – Russia’s most popular opposition politician – died at a remote prison above the Arctic Circle, officials are still stonewalling the family’s questions about the cause of his death.

Mr Navalny’s mother and lawyer on Monday morning arrived at a mortuary in the regional capital Salekhard but were not allowed in, his spokesman said. The mortuary would not confirm if it was indeed keeping the body.

Media Zona, a well-respected local media website, on Sunday studied a trove of publicly available CCTV footage on the road leading from Mr Navalny’s prison colony to Salekhard which showed an unusual motorcade heading to the regional capital about 10 hours after the reported time of his death. The report suggested it could have been carrying Mr Navalny’s body.

Mr Navalny’s post-mortem examination period has been extended, Kira Yarmysh, Mr Navalnhy’s spokesman said, citing a request from the local Investigative Committee, Russia’s top investigative body.

“The cause of death is still ‘not established’,” she said in a statement.

A Kremlin spokesman on Monday refused to comment on the delay.

A close Navalny ally suggested that there had been a pattern of evidence-tampering that his team similarly witnessed at a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk in 2020, when Mr Navalny was poisoned.

“We have seen it all before in Omsk,” Ivan Zhdanov, head of Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said.

“They’re lying to us. It’s clear what they’re doing right now: They’re mopping up the traces of their crime.”

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters in Moscow that the Kremlin was “not involved” in the proceedings and he was not in a position to comment.

He went on to say the West’s reaction to Mr Navalny’s death was unacceptable, but the statements from the United States and Europe would not harm the Russian president.

“We consider it absolutely unacceptable to make such, well, frankly obnoxious statements,” Mr Peskov said.

“These statements, of course, cannot cause any damage to our head of our state.”

The investigation into Mr Navalny’s death is ongoing and is being conducted in accordance with Russian law, Mr Peskov added.

Asked how Putin reacted to news of the death, Mr Peskov said: “I have nothing to add.”

The Government said on Monday that Navalny’s body must be returned to his family.

Leo Docherty, a junior foreign office minister, told the House of Commons: “His death must be investigated fully and transparently. The Russian authorities must urgently confirm the location of Mr Navalny’s body to his family and allow them access to it.”

Mr Docherty also suggested that the Government was considering bringing in further sanctions against Russia.

“We are working at pace and looking at all options in that regard,” he told MPs.

Flowers and a photo of Alexei Navalny placed near the Russian consulate in Frankfurt, Germany
Flowers and a photo of Alexei Navalny placed near the Russian consulate in Frankfurt, Germany - MICHAEL PROBST/AP

Russian prison officials announced Mr Navalny’s death on Friday afternoon, but did not name the cause or any circumstances.

The most prominent opponent of Vladimir Putin, the 47-year-old politician was jailed in January 2021 after he returned to Russia from Germany where he was convalescing from a near-lethal poisoning in Siberia.

Mr Navalny was last seen speaking to the court via a video link the day before his death. He looked cheerful and did not display any signs of illness.

Despite all forms of protest in Russia being essentially outlawed, mourners have been bringing flowers and candles to monuments across Russia. At least 400 people have been detailed at those vigils since Friday. Some were sentenced to 15 days in jail simply for standing at the monuments for too long.

Meanwhile, Navalny supporters have been rallying in every major city that hosts a sizeable Russian community, from Berlin to Buenos Aires.