Russian court orders arrest of Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny

A Russian court ordered the arrest of the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a hearing Tuesday that was held in absentia as part of a broader Kremlin crackdown on the opposition.

Yulia Navalnaya, who lives abroad, risks arrest if she returns to Russia.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court has ruled to arrest Navalnaya for her alleged involvement in an extremist group.

Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest political opponent, died in February in an Arctic penal colony while serving a 19-year prison sentence on extremism charges he denounced as politically motivated. Authorities said he fell ill after a walk, but provided no details about Navalny’s death.

Navalny was jailed after returning to Moscow in January 2021 from Germany, where he was recovering from a 2020 nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Ms Navalnaya has accused Mr Putin of responsibility for her husband’s death and vowed to continue his activities. Russian officials have vehemently denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning and death.

Ms Navalnaya mocked the court’s decision on the social media platform X, saying it was Mr Putin who should be prosecuted. Her spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, described the court’s decision as a recognition of her “merits”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz noted on X that Mrs Navalnaya is continuing her husband’s legacy and denounced the Moscow court’s decision 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 the authorities’ designation of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation as an extremist organization. The 2021 court ruling that banned Navalny’s group forced his close associates and members of his team to leave Russia.

Several journalists have been jailed on similar charges in recent months in connection with their coverage of the Navalny case.

The Kremlin’s crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and ordinary Russians who criticize it intensified after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

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