Biden met with Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya, White House says

<span>Joe Biden meets with Yulia Navalnaya, right, widow of Alexei Navalny, and daughter Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco, California, on 22 February 2024.</span><span>Photograph: White House via AFP - Getty Images</span>
Joe Biden meets with Yulia Navalnaya, right, widow of Alexei Navalny, and daughter Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco, California, on 22 February 2024.Photograph: White House via AFP - Getty Images

Joe Biden met with Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, and the activist’s daughter, Dasha Navalnaya, in California on Thursday.

Related: Yulia Navalnaya: the reluctant politician continuing her late husband’s work

Navalny, the main opposition leader to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, died in an Arctic penal colony last Friday after being imprisoned by the Kremlin.

The meeting in San Francisco comes ahead of significant new sanctions to be imposed by the US against Russia on Friday ahead of the second anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

In a message on X, Biden said: “Today, I met with Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya – Aleksey Navalny’s loved ones – to express my condolences for their devastating loss.

“Aleksey’s legacy of courage will live on in Yulia and Dasha, and the countless people across Russia fighting for democracy and human rights.”

Biden has previously put the blame for Navalny’s death squarely on Putin. “There is no doubt that the death of Navalny is a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting on Thursday, Biden said: “This morning I had the honor of meeting with Alexey Nalvany’s wife and daughter. We are going to announce sanctions against Putin, who is responsible for his death, tomorrow. We are not letting up.”

The White House said: “The president expressed his admiration for Aleksey Navalny’s extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone.

“The president emphasized that Aleksey’s legacy will carry on through people across Russia and around the world mourning his loss and fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights.

“He affirmed that his administration will announce major new sanctions against Russia tomorrow in response to Aleksey’s death, Russia’s repression and aggression, and its brutal and illegal war in Ukraine.”

The treasury department is planning on Friday to impose more than 500 new sanctions on Russia as the US vows to keep up its financial pressure on Moscow with the war entering its third grueling year. The sanctions represent the largest single tranche of penalties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

he undersecretary of state, Victoria Nuland, said that some of the sanctions will target those responsible for the death of Navalny, but most will hit “Putin’s war machine” and close gaps in existing sanctions. Thousands of sanctions have already been imposed on Russian officials, businessmen, banks, companies and entire industries since the start of the war.

On Monday, Yulia Navalnaya, 47, who has previously shunned the political spotlight herself, published a video address in which she vowed to continue her late husband’s political work and called on Russians to rally around her.

“I will continue Alexei Navalny’s work … I want to live in a free Russia, I want to build a free Russia,” Navalnaya said in the video. “I ask you to share with me the rage. The fury, anger, hatred for those who dare to kill our future.”

After her husband was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in an FSB assassination attempt in Russia in 2020, Navalnaya put pressure on doctors and Putin to release him and accompanied him to a hospital in Berlin, where he recovered.

She was also with Navalny when he returned to Russia in 2021 and was imprisoned as he arrived at Moscow airport.

Navalnaya, who now lives in an undisclosed location abroad, said in her video message earlier this week that her main aim now was to protect her two children from the fallout of her late husband’s political work. “Putin killed the father of my children. Putin took away the most precious thing I had, the closest person to me, and the person I loved most in the world,” she said.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death. On Thursday Putin described as “rude” comments Biden made about him earlier in the week calling him a “crazy SOB”.