She Assumes the Role She Never Wanted

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, says she will carry on her husband's fight
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2024 12:15 PM CST
She Assumes the Role She Never Wanted
From 2019: Alexei Navalny, center, with wife Yulia, right, daughter Daria, and son Zakhar.   (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov, File)

Yulia Navalnaya always kept a remarkably low profile even as husband Alexei Navalny became a well-known figure around the world in his opposition to Vladimir Putin. All that has changed since the death of Navalny in a remote Russian penal colony. On Monday, the 47-year-old Navalnaya promised to continue her husband's fight against the Putin regime and asked his followers to join with her. Coverage:

  • The personal: Navalnaya has a degree in economics and gave up her banking career to raise the couple's two children as her husband rose in prominence, reports the BBC. They met on a beach in 1998 in Turkey and wed two years later. "I did not get married to a promising lawyer or an opposition leader," she once said. "I got married to a young man named Alexei."

  • An exception: She made a rare foray into the public spotlight after her husband was poisoned in 2020 and was instrumental in winning his release from Russia to be treated in Germany. (She held numerous press conferences and wrote a letter to Putin that the Russian leader cited in his eventual decision.) It's part of the reason she has been dubbed the "first lady of the Russian opposition."
  • Reluctant: Asked last year by the German news magazine Der Spiegel whether she'd considered entering politics herself, she replied: "I don't think this is an idea I want to play with. ... My understanding is that in order to participate in an election and become a politician, you have to want to do this." She also recently said she had no desire to follow the lead of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an opposition leader in Belarus who became a presidential candidate upon the jailing of her husband, notes the BBC.
  • In praise: Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul previously praised Navalnaya, per MSNBC: "She has all the credentials. She is smart, charismatic, principled, and fearless." The story (citing CNN) notes that Navalnaya may have been poisoned herself in 2020 while on a family vacation. Her symptoms were consistent with poisoning, though she recovered and the cause of her ailment was never discovered.
  • His body: On Monday, Navalnaya accused Russia of "cowardly and meanly" hiding her husband's body so all traces of poison would disappear, per CBS News. Her allegation came with the news that Navalny's body wouldn't be released for at least another 14 days, per CNN. Also on Monday, Navalny's mother was denied access to the morgue in Salekhard where her son's remains are reportedly being kept.
(More Yulia Navalnaya stories.)

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