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A Russian court has ordered the arrest of Alexei Navalny's widow, who lives abroad

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, walks away from his picture after lighting a candle at the end of a service in St. Mary's Church for the deceased Russian opposition politician Navalny on his birthday on June 4 in Berlin.
Sebastian Gollnow
/
picture alliance via Getty Images
Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, walks away from his picture after lighting a candle at the end of a service in St. Mary's Church for the deceased Russian opposition politician Navalny on his birthday on June 4 in Berlin.

Updated July 10, 2024 at 12:09 PM ET

MOSCOW — A Russian court has ordered the arrest in absentia of Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Moscow court order, issued Tuesday, means Navalnaya — who currently lives outside of Russia — faces arrest if she returns to her home country anytime soon.

Court documents claim Navalnaya hid from Russian investigators and call for her extradition from abroad — saying she would be held for an initial two months pending an investigation.

Similar extremism-related charges have been used to sentence Navalny associates to years in prison — part of a government crackdown on Navalny’s once budding grassroots political network.

Last December, Ksenia Fadeyeva, a Navalny ally who served as a legislator in the Siberian town of Tomsk, was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Lilia Chanysheva, who led Navalny’s operations in Bashkortostan, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years. In April, a court added 2 1/2 more years to her sentence — arguing the initial one had been too lenient.

A reluctant politician emerges

The arrest warrant for Navalnaya suggests that Russian authorities are taking her growing role seriously in Russia’s often fractured opposition.

In the wake of her husband’s still unexplained death in a remote Arctic prison camp in February, Navalnaya reluctantly announced she would carry on her husband’s mission to fight for a more free and democratic Russia — what Navalny once championed as “the beautiful Russia of the future.”

"There should have been another person in my place, but this person was killed by Vladimir Putin," she said at the time.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in Navalny’s death.

This month, the widow announced she had accepted a role as chair of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

Navalny had been serving out a lengthy prison sentence on charges including extremism, which he had always said were politically motivated.

Reacting to the arrest warrant, Navalnaya made clear she felt authorities were seeking to put the wrong person behind bars.

“When you write about this, please don't forget to write the main thing: Vladimir Putin is a murderer and a war criminal,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“He belongs in prison, not in a comfortable cell in The Hague with a television, but in Russia — in the same type of colony and the same 2-by-3-meter cell in which he killed Alexei.”

In denying any role in Navalny's death, President Putin has said Navalny's body simply gave out somehow.

“It happens. There is nothing you can do about it. It's life,” Putin said in his only public comments about Navalny’s death last March.

Prison officials say Navalny collapsed during a walk in the prison yard, in the penal colony in the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been detained, but have provided no other details.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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