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Joe Biden on Navalny: “He believed in Russia and knew his cause was worth fighting for — and dying for”

Cover image: Screenshot, C-SPAN

U.S. President Joe Biden has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the death of Alexei Navalny, hinting that consequences for Russia could follow. Biden said he was “not surprised” but “outraged” by the opposition leader's death. He also warned that the world was watching and that Congress had to stand up to Russia and pass a long-stalled military and financial aid package for Ukraine.

Delivering remarks at the White House on Friday after after Russian prison officials announced that Navalny had died, Biden said:

“Navalny stood up to the corruption, the violence, and all the bad things the Putin government was doing. In response, Putin had him poisoned, had him arrested, had him prosecuted for fabricated crimes, he sent him to prison, he was held in isolation — all that didn’t stop him from calling out Putin’s lies. Even in prison he was a powerful voice for the truth, which was kind of amazing if you think about it.
He could have lived safely in exile after the assassination attempt in 2020 — which nearly killed him, I might add. Instead, he returned to Russia! [He] returned to Russia knowing he could have been imprisoned or even killed if he continued his work. But he did it anyway because he believed so deeply in his country, in Russia.”

Biden said that he had “no reason to believe” the reports that Navalny was dead were not true, adding that “Russian authorities are going to tell their own story.”

“We don't know exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did.”

“What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin's brutality,” the president said. “No one should be fooled, not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world. Putin does not only target citizens of other countries, as we've seen in what's going on in Ukraine right now, he also inflicts terrible crimes on his own people.
As people across Russia and around the world are mourning Navalny today, because he was so many things that Putin was not. He was brave. He was principled. He was dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and where it applied to everybody. Navalny believed in that Russia. He knew it was a cause worth fighting for — and even dying for. This tragedy reminds us of the stakes of this moment. We have to provide the funding so Ukraine can keep defending itself against Putin’s vicious onslaughts and war crimes.”

Biden warned Putin in 2021 that there would be “devastating” consequences if Navalny died in prison. Now that Navalny's death has been reported, Biden was asked Friday what consequences Putin and Russia should face.

“That was three years ago,” Biden replied. “In the meantime, they faced a hell of a lot of consequences. They’ve lost and/or had wounded over 350,000 Russian soldiers,” he said, referring to casualties suffered since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “They've been made into a position where they have been subjected to great sanctions across the board. And we're contemplating what else can be done.”

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