Russian court orders arrest of widow of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny

A court in Moscow has ordered the imprisonment of Yulia Navalnaya – widow of late Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny – for two months.

The court accused Navalnaya, who lives in exile, of participating in an “extremist” group. The decision means she faces certain arrest if she sets foot in the country.

Navalnaya, 47, stepped into the spotlight following her husband’s death in an Arctic penal colony in February, and said she will continue the fight for what Navalny called the “beautiful Russia of the future”.

Writing on X on Tuesday, Navalnaya told her supporters to focus not on the court order against her, but on the battle against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“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.

“His place is in prison and not somewhere in The Hague, in a cozy cell with a TV, but in Russia – in the same [penal] colony and the same 2-by-3 metre cell in which he killed Alexey.”

The Kremlin has denied ordering Navalny killed.

‘Fight Putin’

Since her husband’s death, Navalnaya has met a number of Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden in San Francisco.

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The US-based nonprofit group Human Rights Foundation named Navalnaya its chair last week, and she said she would use the new role to step up the struggle waged by her husband against Putin.

“We will take on board everything that can be useful to fight Putin, to fight for the beautiful Russia of the future,” she said.

Navalnaya left Russia in 2021 and has lived in Germany since her husband’s death.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Navalnaya is carrying on her husband’s legacy and denounced the Moscow court’s ruling as “an arrest warrant against the desire for freedom and democracy”.

Russian authorities have not specified the charges against Navalnaya. They appear to relate to authorities designating Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption as an “extremist organisation”.

The 2021 court ruling that outlawed Navalny’s group forced his close associates and team members to leave Russia.

Navalny was imprisoned after returning to Moscow in January 2021 from Germany, where he had been recuperating from the 2020 nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

He died at the “Polar Wolf” Arctic penal colony – 1,900km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow – where the 47-year-old was serving a 19-year prison sentence for a variety of charges. His mother was told by prison officials he died from “sudden death syndrome”.

Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh alleged he “was murdered”. Navalny’s death removed Putin from his greatest political foe who organised mass anti-Kremlin protests and crusaded against corruption.