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Navalny's death prompts fresh calls for Ukraine aid in US

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 16, 2024 7:23 PM 2 min read
Senator John Fetterman speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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Some U.S. Congress members have renewed their calls for the approval of a $60 billion aid bill for Ukraine following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Feb. 16.

"House members blocking critical aid to Ukraine can revel in another high-five for (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin who just murdered his most vocal and visible critic," said John Fetterman, a Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Senate approved additional funding for Kyiv earlier this week. However, the bill is likely to face steep opposition from hardline Republicans in the House who are close to their party's presidential hopeful, Donald Trump.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, whose views closely align with those of Trump, has so far refused to put the bill for a vote, putting the House on recess until the end of February.

"The death of (Alexei Navalny) is tragic.  It underscores the brutal authoritarian rule of Putin and what's at stake as the Speaker of the House refuses to put the Ukraine funding package on the floor bending to extremist House members and Donald Trump," Democratic Congressman Bill Keating commented.

Navalny's death prompted a reaction also from the Republican Party, part of which continues to favor aiding Ukraine.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis said that "Navalny laid down his life fighting for the freedom of the country he loved" while calling Putin "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," Tillis commented.

Russian media reported on Feb. 16 that Navalny died in prison. Navalny was being held in a penal colony in Russia's far northern Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.

According to the prison service, Navalny supposedly lost consciousness and could not be revived.

The penal colony that Navalny was held in is located in a remote settlement north of the Arctic Circle, with "tough conditions" and limited access to letter delivery, according to Zhdanov, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation established by Navalny.

Navalny was previously held in the IK-6 Melekhovo high-security prison in Russia's Vladimir Oblast.

Navalny had been serving a 2.5-year prison sentence since 2021 and a separate 9-year sentence on fraud charges since 2022.

A Russian court also sentenced Navalny to 19 years in a maximum security prison in August 2023 on extremism charges for creating the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

All these cases have been recognized as politically motivated and fabricated by international human rights organizations and governments.

Navalny was poisoned in Russia in 2020 and flown for treatment in Germany. German doctors said he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent — a chemical weapon produced by the Russian government.

The Insider, Bellingcat, CNN, and Der Spiegel published an investigation according to which Navalny had been poisoned by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service. They also identified the agents' names.

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