Biden meets with Navalny’s widow and daughter

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President Joe Biden met Thursday with the widow and daughter of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in prison last week.

In San Francisco as part of a three-day fundraising swing through California, Biden expressed his “heartfelt condolences” to Yulia and Dasha Navalny, according to a White House readout of the meeting.

Biden “expressed his admiration for Alexei 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 White House said. “The President emphasized that Alexei’s legacy will carry on through people across Russia and around the world mourning his loss and fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Biden also posted a message on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, with photos of him with the Navalny family.

Few details have emerged about the cause of Navalny’s death — his family has been unable to retrieve his body — but Biden and most Russia-watchers have expressed suspicion, if not near certainty, that Vladimir Putin had a direct role after the Russian president moved the dissident last year to a remote penal colony above the Arctic Circle.

Yulia, in a video message, blamed Putin for killing her husband and vowed to take up his cause, that of a free Russia.

Biden, who last week said Putin is “responsible” for the death, said in 2021 that the Russian leader would suffer “devastating” consequences if Navalny were to die in prison.

Asked about that remark following Navalny’s death, Biden seemed to dismiss the threat as irrelevant some three years later. He noted that Russia has already suffered major consequences following its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine due to the economic sanctions and export controls that have been imposed by the U.S. and NATO allies.

The White House, in its readout of Thursday’s meeting, also noted that Biden planned to announce additional sanctions on Friday “in response to Alexei’s death, Russia’s repression and aggression, and its brutal and illegal war in Ukraine.”

But that package had been in the works prior to Navalny’s death, planned for release to mark the two-year anniversary of the war this Saturday. And adding additional measures to it following Navalny’s death has proved complicated, according to three administration officials.