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Russia: Navalny's wife pays tribute as crackdown continues

February 18, 2024

Alexei Navalny's supporters who attended events held to commemorate his death were detained in dozens of Russian cities. Meanwhile, an independent news site claims the opposition leader's body showed signs of bruising.

Police officers detaining a woman in Russia
Police in Russia detained people mourning Navalny's death in 36 citiesImage: REUTERS

Authorities in Russia have detained more than 400 people who participated in demonstrations held in memory of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Supporters of Navalny were detained in 36 cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Belgorod as they held protests to mark Navalny's death, according to pro-rights group OVD-Info.

The death of the Russian opposition leader has been confirmed by Navalny's allies, but they say the Russian government is refusing to hand over his body.  

The 47-year-old former lawyer fell unconscious and died on Friday after a walk at the "Polar Wolf" penal colony in Kharp, about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, where he was serving a three-decade sentence, the prison service said.

Navalny's wife Yulia on Sunday posted a picture of them together on social media with the words: "I love you."

Within hours of the death being reported on Friday, Yulia Navalny had given a speech at theMunich Security Conference to a standing ovation.

The US ambassador to Moscow visited a makeshift shrine to Alexei Navalny on Sunday, as the British ambassador did the previous day.

Ambassador Lynne Tracy was pictured on Sunday at the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to political repression that has become a major site of tributes for Navalny.

"Today at the Solovetsky Stone we mourn the death of Alexei Navalny and other victims of political repression in Russia," the US embassy in Moscow said on social media.

Will Navalny's fate rally the Russian opposition?

What else is known about Navalny's death?

The Kremlin has said that the cause of Navalny's death is still being investigated.

Navalny's relatives have not yet been granted access to his body.

The independent Russian-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe reported on Sunday that Navalny's body was lying in the district
hospital in the northern Siberian town of Salekhard directly on the Arctic Circle.

No autopsy had been conducted on the dissident up to Saturday, the anti-government newspaper said, citing an anonymous informant.

Novaya Gazeta, which is currently being published from Latvia, said an emergency services worker had reported blue marks on the body.

A bruise on his chest was evidence of attempts at resuscitation, the informant said, although that person did not see Navalny's body after death and was reportedly passing on what they had heard from colleagues.

While the West has blamed the Russian leadership for Navalny's death, Moscow denies any involvement.

"There are still no results of the forensic investigation, but the West is already drawing its conclusions," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

In August 2020, Navalny was treated at a Berlin hospital after being poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent, which the West blamed on Russian spies.

He returned to Russia a few months later and was arrested upon his return and convicted in multiple cases that his supporters say were politically motivated.

A portrait of Alexei Navalny, flowers and candles are laid on a ground in memory of the late Russian opposition leader, in St. Petersbiurg, Russia on February 16, 2024
Navalny's death has been mourned at vigils in several Russian citiesImage: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP/picture alliance

More reaction to Nalvany's death

Human rights activists have termed his death a murder, and Navalny's death has drawn condemnation from leaders of several countries, including US President Joe Biden.

"The fact of the matter is, Putin is responsible. Whether he ordered it, he's responsible for the circumstance," Biden said. "It's a reflection of who he is. It cannot be tolerated."

Ekaterina Schulmann, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, told DW on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that Navalny's death was "chilling."

"Many people present here at the Munich Security Conference know Alexei Navalny personally, he was a presence in the life of many for the last 15 years at least," Schulmann said. "I do think that his memory ought to be memorialized. At least it ought to be kept alive in perhaps the names of streets or public places in European capitals."

"As to the more practical political steps, of course, we all hope that this terrible event will further demonstrate to the world leaders what specific regime they have to deal with in present-day Russia," she said. "How difficult, if not impossible it is to come to any rational agreement with the people who think that murder is the solution to any political problem?

Bill Browder, the American-born British co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management and an adamant critic of the Russian president told DW that: "Putin killed Alexei Navalny,"

The "purpose of this murder is to send a message to anybody in Russia that if you challenge Vladimir Putin, you will be killed." 

The apparent targeting of Navalny was "absolutely going to suppress and repress the Russian people, sadly," Browder said ahead of the country's presidential election next month, which Putin is almost certain to win.

Russia: Arrests made at vigils for Kremlin critic Navalny

mm, mfi/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)