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Navalny’s widow tells West to refuse to recognise Russia’s March election

people gather at the monument to the victims of political repressions following the death of alexei navalny in saint petersburg
A person lights a candle next to a portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at the monument to the victims of political repressions following Navalny’s death, in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has asked the European Union to refuse to recognise Russia’s March presidential election, in a step that sharply escalates her campaign against Vladimir Putin.

Navalnaya, who has accused Putin of having her husband murdered, used a video message from abroad on Monday to call on opposition supporters to oppose the Kremlin chief with greater fury than ever and free Russia from what she characterised as a corrupt elite of “bandits in uniform, thieves and murderers”.

Putin, Russia’s paramount leader for over 20 years, is expected to easily win another six-year term in power next month. He has not yet spoken publicly about Navalny’s death, but the Kremlin has denied involvement and has said an investigation is underway to determine what happened.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, the transcript of which was supplied on Tuesday by a spokeswoman, Yulia Navalnaya said:

“Do not recognise these elections. A president who assassinated his main political opponent cannot be legitimate by definition.”

Navalnaya, whose new account on the social media network X was briefly suspended on Tuesday for reasons that were not immediately clear, has said details and evidence of why and how Navalny was killed will be released soon by her late husband’s allies.

Western leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have blamed Putin for the death and warned of consequences. They have given no evidence.

Opinion polls show Putin, 71, has an approval rating of above 80% ahead of the March 15-17 presidential election in which three minor candidates are challenging him. With the full support of the Russian state, the state-run media and almost no mainstream public dissent, he is certain to win.

Opposition politicians say the election offers a fig leaf of democracy to cover the reality of a corrupt dictatorship. The Kremlin says Putin is by far Russia’s most popular politician.

‘LET ME SEE MY SON’

Navalny, 47, fell unconscious and died suddenly on Friday after a walk at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony above the Arctic Circle where he was serving a three-decade sentence, the prison service said.

Three days after his death, Navalnaya, a 47-year-old mother-of-two, alternated between rage and grief as she signalled in a video statement that she would help lead a shell-shocked opposition to resist Putin.

The Kremlin said Putin had not watched her video statement.

Navalnayasaid the reason the authorities had still not handed over Navalny’s body to his mother – who travelled to the penal colony at the weekend – was because they were waiting for traces of a Novichok nerve agent to leave his corpse. She provided no evidence for her allegation.

Navalny’s allies have cited a Russian investigator as saying the authorities would need at least 14 days to conduct various chemical tests on his body and could therefore not hand his corpse over yet.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, 69, asked Putin in a video message released on Tuesday to hand over her son’s body so she could bury him.

Speaking in front of the prison where he died as small snow flakes swirled in the air and dressed in black, she said:

“For a fifth day I cannot see him, they aren’t giving me his body and don’t even tell me where he is. I appeal to you, Vladimir Putin. Let me finally see my son.”

Separately, the state TASS news agency said Russia had opened a new criminal case against Oleg Navalny, the dead opposition leader’s brother. It did not say why.

Asked about Yulia Navalnaya’s allegation that Putin had killed her husband, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday he could not comment given the circumstances.

“We leave it without comment. Of course, these are absolutely unsubstantiated, obnoxious accusations against the head of the Russian state. But given that Yulia Navalnaya was widowed just days earlier, I will leave it without comment”.

Peskov said Navalnaya’s talk of a nerve agent being used against her husband was unfounded.

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