Biden meets with family of late Russian dissident Alexei Navalny

Joe Biden has met with the family of Alexei Navalny, following the recent death of the 47-year-old political activist in a Russian prison.

The president met with Yulia Navalnaya and Dasha Navalnaya on Thursday during a trip to California, and promised to honour the legacy of the late Russian dissident.

“The President expressed his admiration for Aleksey Navalny's extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone,” a statement from the White House read.

“The President emphasized that Aleksey's legacy will carry on through people across Russia and around the world mourning his loss and fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

During the meeting, the White House said, Mr Biden affirmed that his administration will announce major new sanctions against Russia on Friday, in response to Navalny’s death, Russia's repression and aggression, and the “brutal and illegal” war in Ukraine.

The president met with the family of Alexei Navalny on Thursday during a trip to California (Potus/Twitter)
The president met with the family of Alexei Navalny on Thursday during a trip to California (Potus/Twitter)

“We already have sanctions, but we are considering additional sanctions, yes,” Mr Biden said previously, noting that while the US was unsure of the circumstances of Navalny’s death were unclear, that it was “a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did”.

The meeting in California comes after Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, said had finally been shown her son’s body, a week after his death, but said that Russian authorities were seeking to “blackmail” her into burying him in a secret ceremony without mourners.

Ms Navalnaya, 69, said that she was taken to the city morgue, and that officials told her that if she doesn’t agree to a secret funeral, they will “do something” to her son’s body.

“They want this to be done secretly, with no farewell. They want to bring me to the edge of a cemetery, to a fresh grave and say: here lies your son. I don’t agree to this,” she said.

Dressed in black for a video posted on YouTube, from the Arctic city of Salekhard Ms Navalnaya added: “The investigators claim that they know the cause of death, they have all the medical and legal documents ready, which I saw, and I signed the medical death certificate.”

Western leaders have echoed this, saying the blame lies with Russian authorities including president Vladimir Putin. Navalny, a fierce critic of Mr Putin, had been sentenced to 19 years in a penal colony around 40 miles of the Arctic Circle.

Navalny’s wife has said she believes her husband was poisoned with Novichok. That was after Russian prison authorities announced earlier on Friday last week that Navalny “felt unwell” after going for a walk and became unconscious “almost immediately”.

The anti-corruption campaigner had already survived a poisoning attempt – apparently by Russian secret service agents – before choosing to return to Russia following treatment in Germany. He said at the time that he knew he might be imprisoned or even killed.

Navalny was moved from his former prison in the Vladimir region of central Russia in December to the “special regime” penal colony — the highest security level of prisons in Russia.

Last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to share any details regarding the new sanctions or how they would interact with the strong sanctions already put in place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Kirby said the sanctions will be “specifically supplemented with additional sanctions regarding Mr Navalny’s death.” Similar to the US president, Mr Kirby placed responsibility for the death at the feet of Russian authorities.

“Regardless of the scientific answer, Putin’s responsible for it,” he told the press.