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Yulia Navalnaïa, strong woman worthy of Alexeï Navalny

Photo: Odd Andersen Agence France-Presse “I hope and believe that I will see Alexei free. Nothing is impossible when you are in love,” Yulia Navalnaïa, always full of hope, told the German daily “Der Spiegel” last year.

Ola Cichowlas – Agence France-Presse In Warsaw

February 18, 2024

  • Europe

It had been two years since Yulia Navalnaïa had seen her husband, Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny, when she spoke in Munich, just after the announcement of his death in prison.

With tears in her eyes, the one who shared her long and painful battle against the Kremlin took a deep breath.

“If this is the truth, I would like Putin, his entire staff, his entire entourage, his entire government, his friends, to know that they will be punished for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband,” she said, her voice firm but brimming with emotion.

“And that day will come very soon,” said Yulia Navalnaïa, 47, blonde hair gathered, as always, in a tight bun.

With Alexeï Navalny, she experienced the hope of the major demonstrations that he mobilized in Russia, the anguish of a poisoning which he narrowly survived in 2020 and a return to Moscow for a few months later, together and heads held high.

As soon as he landed, he was arrested.

Despite the 19-year prison sentence handed down to him and his terrible conditions of detention, Yulia Navalnaya remained hopeful.

“I hope and believe that I will see Alexei free. Nothing is impossible when you are in love,” she told the German daily Der Spiegel last year.

As his standoff with the Kremlin became more and more risky, the opponent said he would be incapable of it without his wife.

Her last public message was a love note, for Valentine's Day: “I feel like you are with me every second. »

Youlia Navalnaïa, for her first publication on social networks after the death of her husband, chose a photo where he kisses her on the forehead. In the caption, “I love you.”

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Unlike Vladimir Putin, whose private life is a state secret, the couple highlighted their daily family life.

And Yulia Navalnaïa therefore became, like her husband, a public figure. His notoriety even pushed some of Alexeï Navalny's supporters to dream of a political future for him, even before he was behind bars.

She has so far dismissed this idea, describing herself as a mother and companion above all.

But many wonder who else could unite a decimated opposition, driven into exile and deprived of a figurehead.

“Youlia! »

Her speech, after the announcement of her husband's death, established her image as a strong woman.

In 2020, Yulia Navalnaïa saw Alexeï Navalny narrowly escape death, poisoned in Siberia by a “Novichok-type” substance, a powerful nerve agent, according to a European analysis.

She had managed to get him to leave Russia for Germany while he was in a coma, in the hands of local doctors who refused to let him leave.

“Every moment when we were there, I was like, ‘I have to get him out,'” she said, accusing doctors of dragging out the process until he dies or the neurotoxic product is no longer detectable.

Five months later, she was just as imposing when the couple returned to Moscow, knowing full well that this trip would end in prison.

“Boy, bring us some vodka, we’re going home,” she said on the plane, filmed alongside Alexei Navalny, reenacting a scene from a cult Russian film .

The couple had been separated at passport control upon arrival.

After a quick embrace with her husband, taken away by the police and whom she would never see free again, she was greeted at the airport by a crowd shouting “Youlia! “.

“Political figure”

While getting back on his feet in Germany after his poisoning, Alexei Navalny joked that his wife's views were more radical than his own.

“When you're not in politics but you see the darkest things committed against your family then, of course, it radicalizes you,” he explained.

When Alexei Navalny was in prison, Yulia Navalnaïa assured that she would not follow in the footsteps of Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, who became the leader of the Belarusian opposition when her husband was placed in detention.< /p>

But for political scientist Tatiana Stanovaïa, “whether Yulia Navalnaïa likes it or not, she becomes a political figure”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116