Alexei Navalny's widow urges world to 'stand next to me' in continuing to oppose Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died Friday, according to prison officials. On Monday, his spokesperson said the cause of death was still unknown. File Photo courtesy of the Moscow City Court Press Service
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Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The widow of the late Russian political opposition leader Alexei Navalny says that she will carry on her late husband's work as the government still refuses to return his body and with his official cause of death still unknown.

On her late husband's YouTube channel, Yulia Navalnaya, 47, said that just three days before, "Vladimir Putin killed my husband Alexei Navalny. Putin killed the father of my children."

She added that Russia's leader "took away the most important thing I had. The person who was closest to me and whom I loved most."

"I have no right to give up," she said. "I will continue to fight for our country and I urge you to stand next to me."

The Russian state has so far refused to return Navalny's body, said Navalnaya, who also said it was because Moscow is trying to remove traces of a deadly poison in Navalny's body.

She urged Russian citizens to fight against the war in Ukraine and to fight "against corruption, against injustice," as well as for "fair elections and freedom of speech."

Navalny was seen alive the day before via video link looking "gaunt" but seemingly fine. He was pronounced dead by emergency medical doctors the next day, with the prison saying the cause of death was under investigation.

Navalny's wife -- a mother of two -- directly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for her husband's death and said that Russia is "lying miserably" about the circumstances surrounding his death.

In the wake of Navalny's death, 389 people in 39 Russian cities have been arrested over actions taken in memory of Navalny, OVD-Info, an independent human rights project in the country, said.

Additional sanctions against Russia are being considered by the United States and the European Union.

At the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden said "make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny's death. Putin is responsible."

The Kremlin called statements like Biden's "arrogant" and "unacceptable."

Navalny, the most well-known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died Friday. Russian authorities at the Artic penal colony where Navalny was incarcerated said in a statement that he "felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness."

Still unknown

Navalny's spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said Monday in a statement on X that the investigative committee informed them that the cause of death was still unknown and that the investigation was ongoing.

"The Investigative Committee informed the mother and the lawyers that the investigation of the death of Navalny has been extended. They don't say how long it will take," she said. "They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it."

She said in a separate statement that Navalny's mother and lawyers had arrived at the morgue early Monday but were denied entry.

"One of the lawyers was literally pushed out," she said. "When the staff was asked if Alexey's body was there, they did not answer."

Navalny, a former lawyer and anti-corruption activist, rose to prominence over his vocal criticism of the Putin regime and was convicted on embezzlement charges his team said were politically motivated in 2014 and was handed a suspended sentence.

As his fame grew, Navalny was poisoned in 2020. He fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow and was taken to Germany, where he stayed for several months for treatment.

On his January 2021 return to Russia, he was arrested on charges of violating his suspended sentence. He was later sentenced to more than 30 years on extremism and fraud charges, which his team also rejected.