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Ukraine Warns Of Economic Woes Amid Border Protests by Polish Truckers, Farmers

Ukraine Warns Of Economic Woes Amid Border Protests by Polish Truckers, Farmers

European Union foreign ministers in Brussels provided strong public backing to the exiled widow of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, vowing additional sanctions against Moscow to hold it responsible for the death of her husband in a remote Arctic prison.

“The EU will spare no efforts to hold Russia’s political leadership and authorities to account, in close coordination with our partners; and impose further costs for their actions, including through sanctions,” the EU’s top diplomats said in a joint statement following their meeting with Yulia Navalnaya on February 19.

Navalnaya, who has become a vocal Kremlin critic in her own right over recent years, vowed to “continue our fight for our country” as she traveled to Brussels to seek backing from the 27-member bloc, whose leaders have expressed outrage over Navalny’s death in custody last week and Russian authorities’ refusal to allow his mother and lawyers to see his body.

“Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Aleksei Navalny,” Yulia Navalnaya said in a two-minute video post on X, formerly Twitter.

Navalnaya, who along with their two children lives abroad, was already in Munich for a major international security conference when reports emerged on February 16 that Navalny had died at a harsh Arctic prison known as Polar Wolf, where he was serving a 19-year sentence for alleged extremism that Navalny and Kremlin critics say was heaped atop other convictions to punish him for his anti-corruption and political activities.

“I will continue the work of Aleksei Navalny,” Navalnaya said. “Continue to fight for our country. And I invite you to stand beside me.”

She called for supporters to battle the Kremlin with “more fury than ever before” and said she longed to live in “a free Russia.”

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell emerged from that meeting expressing “the EU’s deepest condolences” and confidence that Russian President “Vladimir Putin & his regime will be held accountable for the death of [Aleksei Navalny].”

“As [Navalnaya] said, Putin is not Russia. Russia is not Putin,” Borrell said, adding that the bloc’s support is assured “to Russia’s civil society & independent media.”

An ally of Navalny, Ivan Zhdanov, said in a post on Telegram that an investigator had stated that tests on Navalny’s body will take 14 days to complete.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis insisted earlier that the EU must “at least” sharpen sanctions against Russia following Navalny’s death.

The EU has already passed 12 rounds of Russian sanctions and is working on a 13th with the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaching later this week, with member Germany pressing for more.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said Berlin would propose new sanctions on Moscow at the meeting with Navalnaya, but the outcome remained unclear.

The German Foreign Office said it was summoning the Russian ambassador over Navalny’s death to “condemn this in the strongest possible terms and expressly call for the release of all those imprisoned in Russia for political reasons.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office called separately for clarification on the circumstances and for Russian authorities to release Navalny’s body to the family.

The Kremlin — which for years avoided mention of Navalny by name — broke its official silence on February 19 by saying an investigation was ongoing and would be carried out according to Russian law. It said the question of when his body would be handed over was not for the Kremlin to decide.

It called Western outcry over the February 16 announcement of Navalny’s death “absolutely unacceptable.”

The Latvia-based Novaya Gazeta Europe said on February 18 that police were securing a local morgue in the Siberian city of Salekhard as speculation swirled around the location of the 47-year-old Navalny’s body and whether it showed signs of abuse.

Navalny is the latest on a significant list of Putin foes who have ended up dead under suspicious circumstances abroad or at home, where the Kremlin has clamped down ruthlessly on dissent and free speech since the Ukraine invasion began.

Political analyst Yekaterina Shulman told Current Time that Navalny “possessed incomparable moral capital” in Russia but also well beyond its borders.

“He possessed fame — all Russian and worldwide,” Shulman said. “He had moral authority [and] he had a long political biography. These are all things that cannot be handed down to anyone and cannot be acquired quickly.”

She cited Navalny’s crucial credibility and “political capital” built up through years of investigations of corruption, campaigning for elections, and organizing politically.

“Perhaps this apparent political assassination will become a rallying point not for the opposition — the opposition is people who run for office to acquire mandates [and] we are not in that situation — but for the anti-war community…inside Russia,” Shulman said.

Navalny’s family and close associates have confirmed his death in prison and have demanded his body be handed over, but authorities have refused to release it pending an investigation.

Mediazona and Novaya.gazeta Europe said Navalny’s body was being held at the district morgue in Salekhard, although officials reportedly told Navalny’s mother otherwise after she traveled to the remote prison on February 17 and was denied access.

A former spokeswoman for Navalny, Kira Yarmysh, claimed Navalny’s mother had been turned away again early on February 19.

Yarmysh tweeted that Russia’s federal Investigative Committee had told his mother and lawyers that “the investigation into Navalny’s death had been extended. How much longer she will go is unknown. The cause of death is still ‘undetermined.'”

“They lie, stall for time, and don’t even hide it,” she added.

The OVD-Info human rights group website showed more than 57,000 signatories demanding that the Investigative Committee return Navalny’s body to his family.

WATCH: Court documents examined by RFE/RL reveal that medical care was repeatedly denied to inmates at the prison where Aleksei Navalny was held. In one case, this resulted in the death of an inmate. The revelation comes amid questions over how Navalny died and as his body has still not been handed over to his family.

The group noted that a procedural review process could allow authorities to keep the body for at least 30 days, or longer if a criminal case was opened.

Since the announcement of his death on February 16, Russian police have cordoned off memorial sites where people were laying flowers and candles to honor Navalny, and dispersed and arrested more than 430 suspected violators in dozens of locations.

Closely watched by police, mourners on February 19 continued to leave flowers at tributes in Moscow to honor Navalny. Initial reports suggested police in the capital did not intervene in the latest actions.

The Western response has been to condemn Putin and his administration, with U.S. President Joe Biden saying there is “no doubt” that Putin is to blame for Navalny’s death.

The British and U.S. ambassadors laid tributes over the weekend at the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to repression that has emerged as a site to honor Navalny.

U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy said she was honoring “Navalny and other victims of political repression in Russia,” adding, “His strength is an inspiring example. We honor his memory.”

The French ambassador also visited one of the memorials.

With reporting by Reuters


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