Navalny’s team will continue his work, says ally Yarmysh

By Thomson Reuters Feb 17, 2024 | 8:03 AM

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Alexei Navalny’s vision for change in Russia will be kept alive by his team, his ally and spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said in an interview.

The Kremlin critic, 47, fell unconscious and died on Friday after a walk at the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a long prison sentence, the prison service said.

“We lost our leader, but we didn’t lose our ideas and our beliefs”, Yarmysh told Reuters via Zoom, speaking from an undisclosed location.

She said the team holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for what she called Navalny’s murder.

She did not provide evidence for this but pointed to an incident in 2020 when Navalny survived what Western doctors said was a nerve agent poisoning attempt on his life.

Putin denied at the time that the Russian state had tried to kill Navalny, saying it would have “finished the job” if it had really wanted to eliminate him.

“We knew that there was a risk, Alexei knew it as well. And yesterday they murdered him as they planned to do it three years ago”, said Yarmysh.

The prison service statement on Friday did not give a cause of death other than saying he collapsed after taking a walk. Navalny’s mother and lawyer were told at the prison colony on Saturday that he had died of “sudden death syndrome”, prominent Navalny ally Ivan Zhdanov said on Saturday.

Yarmysh called on Western leaders to “put as much pressure on (Putin) as possible”, seek justice in response to Navalny’s death and not negotiate with Putin.

Western leaders have already expressed outrage over Navalny’s death, a response Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called unacceptable on Friday.

Russian authorities viewed Navalny and his supporters as extremists with links to the CIA intelligence agency who are seeking to destabilise Russia. They have outlawed his movement, forcing many of his followers to flee abroad.

Yarmysh, who had worked with Navalny for over a decade, said he represented hope that Russia will be “a proper democratic country with fair elections, with an independent court, with free press… peaceful and wealthy country”.

“Of course everyone is devastated,” Yarmysh said. “Alexei was a person who resembled all these ideas and who was fighting for them. So, I’m sure that his legacy won’t die with him, and people will return to these ideas”.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Frances Kerry)