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Navalny’s widow Yulia calls on Russians to fight Putin for freedom

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said that she would press on with her husband’s fight for a free Russia and called on supporters to battle President Vladimir Putin with greater fury than ever.

Navalny’s death robs Russia’s disparate opposition of its most charismatic and courageous leader as Putin prepares for an election that will keep him in power until at least 2030.

In a nine-minute video message laced with rage, Navalnaya, 47, said Putin had killed her husband and in doing so had robbed her of a husband and her two children of a father.

But she said the only answer to such a crime was to continue her late husband’s fight for a free and prosperous Russia. Russians, she said, wanted to live differently, even if there appeared little hope.

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“I want to live in a free Russia, I want to build a free Russia,” Navalnaya said in the video message entitled “I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny”.

“I urge you to stand next to me,” she said. “I ask you to share the rage with me. Rage, anger, hatred towards those who dared to kill our future.”

Navalnaya accused the Russian authorities of hiding Navalny’s corpse and of waiting for traces of the Novichok nerve agent to disappear from his body.

“Vladimir Putin killed my husband,” Navalnaya said. “By killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me – half of my heart and half of my soul.”

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“But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up. I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny, continue to fight for our country.”

The Kremlin has denied involvement in his death and says that Western claims that Putin was responsible for the death are unacceptable. Putin has warned that there will be a strong response if foreign powers try to meddle in Russia’s election.

Navalny, 47, fell unconscious and died suddenly 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.

The Kremlin said on Monday the investigation into his death was ongoing.

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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.

“The main thing that we can do for Alexei and for ourselves is to keep fighting. More, more desperate, fiercer than before,” she said in her video message.

“I know, it seems that it is no longer possible. But we need more. 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.”

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Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by documenting and poking fun at what he said was the vast corruption and opulence of the “crooks and thieves” running Putin’s Russia.

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“We know exactly why Putin killed Alexei three days ago,” Navalnaya said. “We will tell you about it soon. We will definitely find out who exactly carried out this crime and how exactly. We will name the names and show the faces.”

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By GUY FAULCONBRIDGE and ANDREW OSBORN

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