Weeks After US Journalist Dies In Ukrainian Custody, Biden Uses Navalny's Death To Push For More Russian War Funding

Update(1748ET): Journalist and geopolitical commentator Aaron Maté explains that despite news of Alexei Navalny's death in prison driving world headlines and eliciting remembrances and comments from Western government leaders on Friday, he was still largely an unknown within Russian politics and society [emphasis ZH]...

What [former United States Ambassador to Russia] Michael McFaul says here is a joke. Navalny was a marginal opposition figure who polled at around 2%. Putin didn't fear him; it served Putin to have him seen in the West as his main opposition.

The Russian gov't meanwhile has just barred anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin. A Russian court has also issued a draconian prison sentence to anti-war sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky. We don't hear about people like Nadezhdin and Kagarlitsky in the West nearly as much for one reason: unlike Navalny, they don't collaborate with Western governments.

Navalny worked with NATO intel cutout Bellingcat and went through the "Yale World Fellow" program, a regime change training ground. For this reason, we also don't hear that Navalny was an unrepentant xenophobe who compared Muslim immigrants to cockroaches and rotten teeth. 

His death is a tragedy. He was undoubtedly mistreated. But because he served US interests, US state media will make him into someone he was not. And just compare their fawning coverage to their silence on, or even support for, the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange. Or their complete silence on the mistreatment and death of US citizen Gonzalo Lira in Ukrainian custody -- universally ignored in US media.

Below is McFaul interview that Maté is referencing...

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Update(1324ET)
:
The White House says it is still waiting on confirmation of Navalny's death, but also has stated it has little doubt the reports are true and that President Putin is behind it. Previously the Biden administration said there would be 'devastating' consequences if Navalny dies in prison. “Reports of his death, if they’re true, and I have no reasons to believe they’re not — Russian authorities are going to tell their own story,” Biden said.

Biden in his live remarks said that Alexei Navalny bravely "stood up" to the "bad things" of the Putin government. Biden described that he had been "poisoned, arrested, sent him to prison, sent him to isolation.. a powerful voice for the truth." 

And then Navalny returned from Germany to Russia "Knowing he'd likely be imprisoned or even killed... but he did it anyway." Biden then asserted confidently that "Putin is responsible for Navalny's death" and all of this is "proof of Putin's Brutality" - but that in contrast the 'democratic future' Navalny believed in was worth "dying for".

“But make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Putin is responsible. What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled,” Biden said.

At point during the brief Q&A Biden was asked whether the US believes this was an assassination. Biden didn't affirm the question directly but said that "no doubt" it was the consequences of what "Putin and his thugs did."

As for a US response, Biden only said: “We’re contemplating what else can be done."

Navalny had been serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism and corruption. His supporters say these are all trumped-up charges while Russian media has at various times suggested he's a CIA-supported opposition stooge.

But something very noticeably absent from Biden's address and the Q&A that followed was this fact: An American citizen journalist died in Ukrainian custody... and his name has not been mentioned from the White House press podium, nor his case investigated

But it remains that Gonzalo Lira's death on Jan.24 - following an eight-month imprisonment on charges of ”justifying Russia's military actions in Ukraine” - is not 'useful' to the Biden administration. Yet Biden during his speech was very quick to pivot from Navalny's plight to the need for Congress to push through his funding package for Ukraine.

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Watch live:

Update(1058ET): The international reaction to Navalny's death in a Russian prison in the far north has been coming in throughout the morning, and as expected it includes the accusation that Putin and the Kremlin "brutally murdered" the Russian dissident, as Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas slammed Moscow as a "rogue regime" and urged 'accountability'. Kallas said "Alexei Navalny's death is yet another dark reminder of the rogue regime we're dealing with – and why Russia and all those responsible must be held accountable for each of their crimes." Other European leaders reacted similarly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that "All the facts have to be established and Russia has serious questions to answer." He added: "Alexei Navalny has been a strong voice for freedom, for democracy, for many years, and NATO and NATO allies have called for his immediate release for a long time."

US Vice President Kamala Harris had little to say, only telling the Munich Security Conference on Friday that the Biden administration working to confirm the "terrible" news: "Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible, and we will have more to say on this later," she said.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders were quick to call Putin a "murderous dictator". For example Republican Senator Tom Thillis (NC) issued the following blistering condemnation after first saying "Navalny laid down his life fighting for the freedom of the country he loved."...

Putin is a murderous, paranoid dictator. History will not be kind to those in America who make apologies for Putin and praise Russian autocracy. Nor will history be kind to America’s leaders who stay silent because they fear backlash from online pundits.

Perhaps more interesting is the quickness with which Nikki Haley is trying to use to moment to improve her waning visibility with Republican voters:

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley blasted GOP primary rival former President Trump for his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin following the death of the country’s top opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday. 

“Putin did this,” Haley wrote Friday morning on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in response to news of Navalny’s death in prison. “The same Putin who Donald Trump praises and defends. The same Trump who said: ‘In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that’.” 

And of course, as we highlighted earlier, Tucker Carlson is being attacked for his recent trip to Moscow and Putin interview. The full court press begins...

What's next? more sanctions on the already highly sanctioned Russian economy? Or perhaps Biden will move forward with a massive asset seizure? 

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in a maximum-security prison in the country's far north, the Interfax news service reported Friday, citing the Federal Penitentiary Service. 

47 year old Navalny, a major critic of President Vladimir Putin, vanished in December from a prison in the Vladimir region where he was serving a three-decade term for extremism and fraud charges that he had called political payback for his anti-Kremlin stance a decade ago. He had no expectations of getting out of jail as long as Putin was in power.

He later emerged in a remote Arctic prison camp, ending nearly three weeks in which his whereabouts were unknown, after he was moved from a prison outside Moscow.

"On February 16, 2024, in penal colony No. 3, convict A.A. Navalny felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness," Interfax said, citing the country's prison service. 

The Russian news agency continued: "The facility's medical workers immediately arrived at the scene and an emergency medical team was called in. All necessary resuscitation measures have been carried out, but they did not yield positive results. Emergency medics confirmed the death of the convict." 

Navalny's death leaves any opposition to Putin in question. All of Putin's top adversaries are now either deceased, imprisoned, or living in exile. 

Navalny was, undoubtedly, the biggest thorn in the Kremlin’s side. For over a decade, he led nationwide protests against the authorities, ran for office to challenge members of the Russian establishment and set up a network of campaign offices across the country that have since been dismantled.

Of course, the timing of Navalny's death shortly after Tucker Carlson's interview with Russian President Putin has set the socials on fire.

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