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Biden speaks on reported death of Alexei Navalny: 'Putin is responsible'

Russia's prison service said Navalny died Friday.

February 16, 2024, 1:43 PM

President Joe Biden said Friday he was both "not surprised" and "outraged" by reports of the death of Alexei Navalny, the longtime Russian opposition politician and critic of Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service announced Navalny died in prison. The service claimed Navalny, 47, lost consciousness after a walk but gave no official cause of death.

"Russian authorities are going to tell their own story," Biden said in remarks delivered from the Roosevelt Room. "Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny's death."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the White House, Washington, D.C., Feb. 16, 2024.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in the White House, Washington, D.C., Feb. 16, 2024.
Evan Vucci/AP

Biden said while the U.S. is not yet sure exactly what happened, there was no reason to believe the reports out of Russia weren't true.

"What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putin's brutality," the president said. "No one should be fooled, not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world. Putin does not only target his citizens of other countries, as we've seen in what's going on in Ukraine right now, he also inflicts terrible crimes on his own people."

Biden commended Navalny for speaking up against Putin's regime despite the consequences, which included being imprisoned on trumped charges and an assassination attempt by poisoning in 2020.

"As people across Russia and around the world are mourning Navalny today, because he was so many things that Putin was not," Biden said. "He was brave. He was principled. He was dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and where it applied to everybody."

PHOTO: A portrait of Alexei Navalny displayed amongst flowers as protestors pay their respects outside the Russian Embassy in Belgrade, Feb. 16, 2024.
A portrait of Alexei Navalny displayed amongst flowers as protestors pay their respects outside the Russian Embassy in Belgrade, Feb. 16, 2024.
Oliver Bunic/AFP via Getty Images

Biden, in 2021, warned Putin there would be "devastating" consequences if Navalny were to die while in prison. Biden was asked Friday what consequences Putin and Russia should face now that Navalny's death has been reported.

"That was three years ago," Biden responded. "In the meantime, they faced a hell of a lot of consequences. They’ve lost and/or had wounded over 350,000 Russian soldiers," he said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "They've been made into a position where they have been subjected to great sanctions across the board. And we're contemplating what else can be done."

Earlier Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Navalny's wife, Yulia, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. There, Yulia Navalnaya asked attendees to "unite and help punish the Russian regime."

From the White House, Biden also made a point to criticize former President Donald Trump for his recent comments on NATO. Trump has been under fire for saying he would encourage Putin's Russia to "do whatever the hell they want" if NATO members didn't contribute enough defense funds.

"This is an outrageous thing for a president to say," Biden said of Trump's remarks.

"If Putin were to attack a NATO allies, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory," Biden continued. "Now's the time for even greater unity among our NATO allies to stand up to the threat that Putin's Russia poses."

Biden also criticized Republican members of Congress who've held up further aid to Ukraine. The House left town earlier this week without taking up a Senate-passed foreign aid bill that includes $60 billion for the war-torn nation as it fends off Russian invaders.

"Two weeks they’re walking away," Biden said of lawmakers, his voice rising in anger. "Two weeks. What are they thinking? My God, this is bizarre. And it's just reinforcing all the concern and almost -- I won't say panic -- but real concern about the United States being a reliable ally."