Moscow court orders arrest of Alexei Navalny’s widow

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A Russian court has accused the widow of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny of “extremism” and ordered her arrest if she ever returned home.

Yulia Navalnaya, who no longer lives in Russia, has promised to continue her husband’s work after his death in a Russian prison earlier this year and is now chair of his Anti-Corruption Foundation, an investigative group also based abroad.

Russia outlawed the group as well as Navalny’s nationwide network of activists in 2021, labelling them extremist, on a par with terrorist organisations such as Isis. Numerous people have since been jailed for working with or supporting the group.

“Vladimir Putin is a murderer and a war criminal,” Navalnaya said, responding to news of her arrest order. “His place is in prison, and not somewhere in The Hague, in a cosy cell with a TV, but in Russia — in the same colony and the same two by three-metre cell in which he killed Alexei.”

Navalny, Putin’s most vocal critic for many years, died in a prison colony in the Russian Arctic in February, where he had suffered brutal treatment and was regularly placed in solitary confinement.

The Basmanny court in Moscow said Navalnaya had “absconded” and placed her on an international wanted list.

Should she return or be extradited to Russia, she would be imprisoned for an initial two months, while the investigation continued and the case moved to trial, the court said in a statement.

“The term is calculated from the moment of extradition . . . or from the moment of detention on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the court added.

Despite staying largely out of the limelight when her husband was alive, Navalnaya swiftly took on his mantle after his death, recording a video for his popular YouTube channel in which she called on Russians to “share her fury” and vowed to continue his fight.

Since then, she has met with a string of world leaders to lobby for more sanctions on Russia and spoken at various political events, including addressing the European parliament. She has also been appointed head of the Human Rights Foundation, an international group.

Navalnaya, 47, met her future husband while on holiday in Turkey in 1998. She worked briefly in banking and trade but soon gave up her career, realising that her husband’s growing popularity as a Putin critic made holding a separate job impossible. “Wherever I could go, it’d be tough for the organisation and for me,” she said in a rare interview in 2014.

The couple have two children, who are also living abroad.

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