Navalny's Widow Addresses Husband's Death, Vows to Lead Anti-Putin Opposition

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, left, walks with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Feb. 19, 2024.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, vowed Monday to carry on her husband’s work, saying she "will continue to fight for the freedom of our country,” and, “I call on you to stand by me.”

In an online video statement, Navalnaya said, “Vladimir Putin killed my husband," referring to the Russian president. She also said, "The most important thing we can do for Alexey and for ourselves is to keep fighting more desperately and more fiercely than before."

Navalny's death last Friday at a Russian penal colony in the Arctic Circle has sparked international and domestic outrage, and many Western countries have pointed fingers at the Kremlin. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday, "Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny's death." Biden said what happened to Navalny is "more proof of Putin's brutality."

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed similar sentiments in a social media post on the X platform Monday. He said, "We expressed the EU's deepest condolences to Yulia Navalnaya," and that "Vladimir Putin & his regime will be held accountable.”

Moscow has vehemently denied the allegations of Kremlin involvement. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the accusations were "absolutely unacceptable," and that Navalny's death was being investigated actively.

Russian prison authorities said that Navalny fell unconscious and died on Friday, following a walk at the Arctic prison in Kharp, where he was serving a lengthy sentence.

Flowers are seen placed around a portrait of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Feb. 19, 2024.

The results of the investigation into his death have not yet been released, according to Peskov, and he did not give details as to when Navalny's body would be returned to his family. Putin has not commented on Navalny's death.

Navalny's allies have said that his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, was denied access to a morgue in northern Russia. Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on social media that Lyudmila Navalnaya and her lawyers were "not allowed to go in," and that "One of the lawyers was literally pushed out."

Navalny's team alleges that authorities are dragging out the process of returning the body to "cover up their tracks."

Navalny’s death has dealt a blow to many Russians who viewed the leader as a beacon of hope for what they see as a free Russia.

"We know exactly why Putin killed Alexey three days ago," Yulia Navalnaya said, adding, "We will definitely find out exactly who carried out this crime and how it was carried out. We will name names and show faces."

Navalny’s death comes ahead of a consequential election is set to occur next month in Russia. The outcome could keep Putin in power until at least 2030.

"I want to live in a free Russia, I want to build a free Russia," Navalnaya said, urging viewers to stand with her in her mission, and to "gather all together in one strong fist and hit this crazed regime with it - Putin, his friends, bandits in uniform, thieves and murderers who crippled our country."

Over the weekend, mourners placed flowers at monuments throughout the country to commemorate the late leader, and authorities detained hundreds of people.

A woman reaches to touch a photo of Alexey Navalny after laying flowers at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg, Russia, Feb. 17, 2024.

The French news agency reported on Monday that several people were seen bringing flowers to a monument of Soviet repression to commemorate Navalny, and that a heavy police presence was in the area.

At various locations in Russia, authorities removed floral tributes that people left behind, but as the tributes were removed, more flowers appeared.

Navalny is being remembered outside of Russia as well. In Kazakhstan, Russian rock singer Yuri Shevchuk performed a song to honor Navalny, and, addressing the crowd, said that Navalny spoke to Russians "about freedom," and reminded them that they "could be free in the best sense of the word."

Russian emigres, many having fled the country after Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, have also mourned the death in cities throughout Europe.

Protesters gathered around Russian embassies throughout Europe on Friday, holding signs calling Putin a "killer."

At a protest in Berlin, hundreds of people chanted in Russian, German and English, many saying, "Putin to The Hague," referring to the International Criminal Court.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.