Alexey Navalny’s widow Yulia to meet EU foreign ministers

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny died in a Russian jail after spending more than three years behind bars.

A woman places flowers as people pay tribute to Alexei Navalny at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. Russians across the vast country streamed to ad-hoc memorials with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, the most famous Russian opposition leader and the Kremlin's fiercest critic. Russian officials reported that Navalny, 47, died in prison on Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
A woman places flowers as people pay tribute to Alexey Navalny at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St Petersburg, Russia [Dmitri Lovetsky/AP Photo]

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, will meet European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said.

The 47-year-old Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic foe, died in a Russian jail on Friday after spending more than three years behind bars, prompting outrage and condemnation from Western leaders and his supporters.

“On Monday, I will welcome Yulia Navalnaya at the EU Foreign Affairs Council,” Josep Borrell said late on Sunday on X.

“EU Ministers will send a strong message of support to freedom fighters in Russia” and “honour” Navalny’s memory, he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Navalnaya shared a post on Instagram that showed a picture of the two together, their heads touching as they watched a performance.

“I love you,” she wrote in the post two days after her husband’s death.

It brought a personal note to the loss she expressed more formally on a public stage just hours after Navalny’s passing was announced by the Russian prison service.

Navalny, 47, fell unconscious and died on Friday after a walk at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony in the Arctic, where he was serving a three-decade sentence, the prison service said. There are still few details on why he died.

On Friday afternoon, Navalnaya appeared before an audience of leaders, diplomats and other officials at the Munich Security Conference, saying she had weighed coming out on stage or immediately leaving to be with the couple’s two children, Daria and Zakhar, deciding her husband would want her to speak.

If the news of his death was true, Navalnaya, 47, said, “I want Putin, his entire entourage, Putin’s friends, his government to know that they will bear responsibility for what they did to our country, to my family, to my husband”.

Hundreds arrested

Navalny’s sudden death was a crushing blow to many Russians, who had pinned their hopes for the future on Putin’s fiercest foe. 

Navalny remained vocal in his unrelenting criticism of the Kremlin even after surviving a nerve agent poisoning and receiving multiple prison terms.

His death came a month before a presidential election in Russia that is widely expected to give Putin another six years in power.

Hundreds of people in dozens of Russian cities streamed to ad-hoc memorials and monuments to victims of political repressions with flowers and candles on Friday and Saturday to pay tribute to the politician.

In more than a dozen cities, police detained 366 people by Sunday night, according to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests and provides legal aid.

More than 200 arrests were made in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, the group said.

Among those detained there was Grigory Mikhnov-Voitenko, a priest of the Apostolic Orthodox Church – a religious group independent of the Russian Orthodox Church – who announced plans on social media to hold a memorial service for Navalny and was arrested on Saturday morning outside his home.

He was charged with organising a rally and placed in a holding cell in a police precinct, but was later hospitalised with a stroke, OVD-Info reported.

Courts in St Petersburg have ordered 42 of those detained on Friday to serve from one to six days in jail, while nine others were fined, court officials said late on Saturday.

In Moscow, at least six people were ordered to serve 15 days in jail, according to OVD-Info.

Questions remain

Questions about the cause of death have lingered, and it remains unclear when the authorities may release Navalny’s body.

More than 12,000 people have submitted requests to the Russian government asking for the politician’s remains to be handed over to his relatives, OVD-Info said on Sunday.

Navalny’s team said Saturday that the politician was “murdered” and accused the authorities of deliberately stalling the release of the body, with Navalny’s mother and lawyers getting contradicting information from various institutions where they went in their quest to retrieve the body.

Russian authorities viewed Navalny and his supporters as extremists with links to the CIA intelligence agency in the United States, which they say is seeking to destabilise Russia. Navalny always dismissed accusations that he was a CIA asset.

Source: News Agencies