Julia Navalni: the courageous widow who will fight against Putin

Yulia Navalnaya She appears ready to continue her husband’s work after the dissident died in a prison near the Arctic Circle on February 16. The widow of Russia’s most famous prisoner does not seem to be afraid of possible reprisals and stated this last week during the security conference in Munich. This begins a new period in Russia’s silenced opposition movement, which has been left orphaned by a lack of active leaders and increasing Kremlin control. “Putin killed half of me, but my other half will not give up,” he said in a nine-minute video statement last Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said earlier this week that Putin had not seen Navalnaya’s speech and rejected her accusation that the Russian president was involved in Navalny’s death. The now widowed woman responded on social media: “I don’t care what the murderer’s press secretary says about me.”

Yulia Navalnaya almost unwillingly joined this group of women who decided to continue the fight of their husbands after their deaths. It will not be easy. The Moscow government has exploited the events with Navalni to give a twist to the control over opposition groups that practically do not exist in the country anyway. Navalnaya, who is still outside Russia, refuses to be intimidated and blames the Kremlin solely for her husband’s death. This, and the almost constant contact she maintains with Western leaders, have made her one of the most annoying authoritative voices in Russia.

Alexei Navalny, 47, died on February 16 after feeling unwell after a walk and losing consciousness almost immediately. After the penal colony’s medical service arrived, the politician’s death could only be determined after unsuccessfully trying to resuscitate him for 30 minutes. According to an official statement from the Federal Penitentiary Service, “all necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, but they did not produce a positive result.” The text ended by stating that “the causes of death are under investigation.”

The opponent’s mother received her son’s body on Saturday after a nine-day wait. “The funeral is still pending. We don’t know if the authorities will intervene or if it will be done the way the family wants and Alexei deserves. We will inform you as soon as there is news,” said the family’s lawyer.

Navalny’s mother has been lying in the morgue in Salekhard, the city closest to the Siberian Polar Wolf prison where her son died, for a week, waiting for the body to be handed over. On Wednesday, Russian state agency TASS reported that Navalny’s mother had filed a lawsuit against authorities, challenging their refusal to return her son’s body. A hearing is scheduled for March 4.

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Navalnaya’s media presence this week could be an advantage in proclaiming himself as the only possible figure in the Russian opposition. No one is oblivious to the fact that she can utilize the reach and resources that her husband already had. These included a YouTube channel with more than six million subscribers on which he described alleged corruption in Putin’s elite. His Monday speech on the channel was viewed more than 5 million times in just over a day.

An X account created by Navalnaya on Monday already has more than 270,000 followers. This is in contrast to the lack of surveillance by the Kremlin’s official media, but does not have to be a problem since a large part of the Russian population follows current events daily via the Internet.

The economist and mother of two children, born in Moscow in 1976, can boast of a certain amount of experience in politics. In 2000, she and her husband joined the Yabloko party, which represents a socially liberal and pro-Western ideology, a formation that she left ten years later after Navalny was expelled due to a conflict with its leader. Grigory Yavlinsky.

Throughout her husband’s career, her contributions as a woman in the shadows were consistently recognized, as she was responsible for coordinating Navalni’s agenda, activities and speeches. He currently appears to have no plans to return to Russia as a criminal case may be opened against him. Although she continues to work from Europe, Yulia Navalnaya enjoys the support of those who followed her husband. Time will tell whether this woman will fill the void left by Alexei Navalny and rally the will of all those who disagree with Putin’s doctrine.

In a photo released by the White House on Thursday, President Joe Biden is seen meeting with Alexey Navalny's wife and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco, California.
In a photo released by the White House on Thursday, President Joe Biden is seen meeting with Alexey Navalny’s wife and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco, California. White House

The President of the United States, Joe Biden, met with Navalni’s widow and daughter this Thursday in San Francisco. After the meeting, Biden said in press statements that Navalni was “a man of incredible courage” and reiterated that Yulia and her daughter Dasha, who studies at Stanford University in California, were “following his example.” Regarding Navalni’s widow, the president stated that “he will continue the fight” and that “he will not give up.”

Shortly beforehand, the White House had reported in a statement about the meeting in which Biden expressed his “deep condolences” to the opponent’s widow and daughter for the “terrible loss” caused by the death of their father. According to the White House, during the meeting, Biden expressed his “admiration” for Navalny’s “extraordinary courage” and for “his legacy in the fight against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia where the rule of law applies equally.”

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