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‘I love you,’ Navalny’s widow Yulia says beside a picture of them together

“I love you,” the widow of Alexei Navalny said in a post on social media beside a picture of them together, two days after President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic foe died in a Russian jail.

Yulia Navalnaya’s post on Instagram, the first since her husband died, showed a picture of the two together, their heads touching as they watched a performance.

It brought a personal note to the loss she expressed more formally on a public stage just hours after her husband’s death 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 of why he died.

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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”.

Western leaders led by U.S. President Joe Biden paid tribute to Navalny’s courage and, without citing evidence, accused Putin of being responsible for the death. Britain said there would be consequences for Russia.

READ:  UK sanctions Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughters

The Kremlin said the West’s reaction was unacceptable and “absolutely rabid”. Putin has yet to comment on Navalny’s death.

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

Navalnaya will be back in a public forum on Monday – the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said she would attend the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends the Munich Security Conference (MSC), on the day it was announced that Alexei Navalny is dead, by the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been serving his sentence, in Munich, Germany February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

SUPPORTED HIS BATTLES

While in Munich, Navalnaya met Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who became an opposition leader after her husband, Syarhei, was sentenced to 18 years in jail after being found guilty in 2021 of organising mass unrest.

Navalnaya always supported her husband in his battles with the Russian authorities, attending his many court appearances, standing beside him at rallies and waiting for release from many prison terms.

She was born in Moscow and she attended the prestigious Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. She met Navalny while on holiday in Turkey in 1998 and fell in love.

“I did not get married to a promising lawyer or an opposition leader: I married a young man named Alexei,” Yulia said once.

When he was detained in 2011 during an opposition protest against alleged vote-rigging, Yulia told Reuters that she simply wanted to get her husband back.

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Surrounded by a pack of reporters, Navalny asked repeatedly to be allowed to embrace his wife, whom he eventually hugged and kissed. “I feel a lot better now,” she said.

READ:  Russian court keeps Kremlin critic Navalny in jail despite outcry

Most recently, she has been living outside Russia.

Navalny’s last post on Telegram before he died was a Valentine’s message for his wife.

“Babe, you and I have everything like in the song: cities between us, airfield take-off lights, blue blizzards and thousands of kilometres. But I feel that you are there every second, and I love you more and more.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, daughter Daria and son Zakhar pose for a picture outside a polling station during the Moscow city parliament election in Moscow, Russia September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
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By GUY FAULCONBRIDGE and MAXIM RODIONOV

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