‘Putin is responsible’ — Biden says US mulling ‘consequences’ over death of Russian opposition leader News
‘Putin is responsible’ — Biden says US mulling ‘consequences’ over death of Russian opposition leader

US President Joe Biden said Friday that he was unsurprised but outraged to learn of the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, adding the US was considering a “whole number of options” in response.

During a press conference called to address Navalny’s death in a remote prison colony, Biden lauded the opposition figure, who had spent years spotlighting corruption among Putin and other members of Russia’s elite and had galvanized the Russian opposition.

“He bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence and all the all the bad things Putin’s government was doing. In response, Putin had him poisoned. He had him arrested and prosecuted for fabricated crimes. He sent him to prison. He held him in isolation. Even all that didn’t stop [Navalny] from calling out lies. Even in prison. He was a powerful voice for the truth,” Biden said.

In his view, Putin is squarely to blame. “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled. Not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world,” he said.

Biden added that Navalny was everything Putin was not — “brave, principled, and dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed.”

He urged US lawmakers to recognize the imperative of providing military aid to Ukraine nearly two years since Russia’s unprovoked invasion and with the resulting war showing no signs of slowing. “History is watching. The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will not be forgotten,” Biden said.

A reporter reminded Biden that in 2021 he had warned Putin of “devastating consequences” in the event Navalny died in prison and asked what these consequences would look like. Biden initially noted that hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed since then and that Russia has since been subject to waves of sanctions, albeit in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Pressed on what consequences his administration is considering, and asked if they would include additional sanctions, Biden said: “We’re looking at a whole number of options. That’s all I will say right now.

Russian prison authorities announced Navalny’s death earlier Friday. He “felt unwell after taking a walk, and began to lose consciousness almost immediately. All necessary resuscitation efforts were made, and did not yield results. Doctors immediately pronounced the convict dead,” said a statement issued by Russia’s federal prison service, and shared by local media.

A lawyer by trade, Navalny has over the past nearly two decades risen to prominence as an opposition activist and anti-corruption crusader.  “I believe that one of the main problems in modern Russia is corruption. I focus on combating it using all available methods: conducting investigations, publicizing facts about abuses of power, and organizing peaceful protests,” he said, as quoted by Yale University, where he completed a fellowship in 2010. His anti-corruption activities have attracted an enormous global audience, his anti-corruption videos drawing hundreds of millions of YouTube viewers.

In August 2020, he was poisoned with a suspected nerve agent, and rushed to Germany, where he spent several months recovering.  Details of the poisoning – including the announcement by German authorities in September 2020 that the nerve agent came from a Soviet-era chemical group called Novichok – drew parallels with other recent high-profile poisonings linked to the Kremlin, including that of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.  As he recovered, the international community buzzed with policy papers, calls for justice and statements of solidarity.

Upon recovering, Navalny returned to Moscow, where he was immediately arrested on charges of having violated a probation order related to a years-old criminal case that itself was broadly viewed as illegitimate, as highlighted in a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.