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Trump avoids blaming Putin for Navalny's death, accuses Biden of 'destroying' America

Trump has been criticised for expressing admiration for Putin in the past and refusing to blame him for meddling in the 2016 elections. Trump also refused to join world leaders in condemning Putin after Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-era chemical nerve agent in 2020.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: February 20, 2024 11:34 IST
US, Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny death
Image Source : REUTERS Former US President Donald Trump

Washington: Former US President Donald Trump on Monday made his first public comment on Russian opposition leader and longtime Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny's death last week, but did not cast blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead drawing parallels to his 'political persecution' and accused the Biden administration of "destroying America". The Republican presidential frontrunner sought to link the death of Navalny with his own legal and political troubles.

"The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country," Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. "It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction. Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions are DESTROYING AMERICA. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE, A FAILING NATION! MAGA2024."

Trump has long expressed fondness and admiration for Putin and even sided with the Russian President over Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election in a stunning rebuke of the US intelligence community. He was also criticising for refusing to join other world leaders in condemning Russia after Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent in 2020.

It was not clear what similarities Trump was trying to draw with Russia's most prominent opposition leader. Navalny, 47, fought for years against what he called vast corruption in Putin's Russia, ruled by "crooks and thieves". Former US presidents and top members of Congress have also denounced Putin after Navalny's death.

On the other hand, former South Carolina Governor and Trump's last remaining major GOP rival, Nikki Haley has repeatedly called out Trump for avoiding addressing Navalny's death. Haley has called Navalny a "hero" and blamed Putin for his death. "Trump needs to answer to that. Does he think Putin killed him? Does he think Putin was right to kill him? And does he think Navalny was a hero?" she told reporters Saturday at an event in South Carolina.

Navalny's death

Russian prison authorities announced on Friday that Navalny felt unwell after a walk at a penal colony and almost immediately fell unconscious, after which all attempts to revive him failed. Navalny, a longtime fierce critic of Putin and the Kremlin, was serving a 30-year-old sentence at a “special regime” penal colony — the highest security level of prisons in the country — above the Arctic Circle.

The stunning news — less than a month before an election that will give Putin another six years in power — brought renewed criticism and outrage directed at the Kremlin leader who has cracked down on all opposition at home. Navalny's team on Saturday said the politician was “murdered” and accused the authorities of deliberately stalling the release of the body.

His sudden death was a crushing blow to Putin's critics and sparked international outrage, with Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden blaming Putin. Navalny was imprisoned since 2021 after he returned to Russia following a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Hundreds of people in dozens of Russian cities streamed to ad-hoc memorials and monuments to victims of political repressions with flowers and candles on Friday and Saturday to pay tribute to Navalny. Police detained over 401 people by Saturday night, according to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests and provides legal aid. More than half of the arrests came from St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city.

A note handed to Navalny's mother stated that he died at 2:17 p.m. Friday, according to Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh. Prison officials told his mother when she arrived at the penal colony Saturday that her son had perished from “sudden death syndrome,” Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Just the day before his death, Navalny was shown joking in court via a video link to court. In mirth, he requested a judge use some of his vast salaries to top up his own account.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died mysteriously in prison, has accused President Vladimir Putin of killing her husband and pledged to continue his struggle for a "free Russia". In a video statement released Monday, she declared, "Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Alexey Navalny," and vowed to carry on his work.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Alexei Navalny's widow Yulia Navalnaya accuses Putin of murder, vows to fight for freedom


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