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    Then she would face the fate of her husband


    Julija Navalnaya has big plans for herself after her husband's death: she wants to fight war, corruption and injustice. But who exactly is the “hopeful figure” of the Russian opposition?

    She describes Alexei Navalny as her “real great love” and “best friend” at the same time: Yulia Navalnaya lost her husband in the fight for power in Russia – and that's precisely why she wants to move on. “I will continue Alexei Navalny's cause, fight for our country. I call on you to stand by me,” she said in a video message on Monday. She also appeared combative in her appearance at the Munich Security Conference, shortly after she learned of her husband's death.

    But what kind of person is Navalny's widow? And what do you have in mind for Russia's future?

    Faithfully at her husband's side

    According to Russia expert Fabian Burkhardt, Julija Navalnaya has so far worked primarily in the background, looking after the children and thereby enabling Navalny to carry out his political work. Navalnaya is “largely a blank slate,” Burkhardt said in an interview with t-online.

    (Source: IOS/Wolfgang Steinbacher)

    To person

    Fabian Burkhardt works at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Research in Regensburg on political institutions in Russia and political systems in post-Soviet states. He is editor of the “Russia Analyzes” and the “Ukraine Analyzes”.

    She comes from Moscow, studied economics there and then worked in a Moscow bank. In 1998 she met Alexei Navalny while on vacation in Turkey, and two years later the two married. They have two children: daughter Daria, born in 2001, and son Zahar, born in 2008. Navalnaya has officially stopped working since 2007 and focuses mainly on raising her offspring.

    In Russia, Navalnaya made a name for herself as the “First Lady” of the opposition. She stood by her partner as a supporter and assistant and fought for his release since his imprisonment. Navalnaya repeatedly took part in Russian protests. She was therefore arrested on January 23, 2021, but released again the same evening.

    “In some aspects she is said to be more radical or even more convinced than Navalny himself,” said expert Burkhardt. But that remains to be seen now. He assumes that their opinions are almost or even completely identical to Navalny's positions.

    “Hope figure” of the Russian opposition

    In the near future, Navalnaya will probably remain in exile and not return to Russia; that would be too dangerous, the expert suspects. She would risk ending up in a prison camp because the Navalny movement is classified as extremist. On Monday, Navalnaya visited Brussels.

    Instead of returning, Navalnaya could devote herself to another task, said Burkhardt: “She is a figure of hope for the Russian opposition and could make it her mission to bring the divided opposition members abroad together.” She faces two challenges: On the one hand, she has little experience with organizing different opposition groups. On the other hand, she could lose contact with the Russian population if she stays abroad for too long.

    “His sacrifice must not be in vain”

    Yulia Navalnaya repeatedly shares her political views publicly. She now announced her most pressing political goal at the Munich Security Conference. In view of the alleged murder of her husband, she wants “Putin and those around him, Putin's friends, his government, to know that they have to answer for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband.”

    In her video message on Monday, she said she and her fellow citizens must seize every opportunity to fight against war, corruption and injustice. She wants fair elections, freedom of expression and to make Russia the free, peaceful and happy country that her husband dreamed of. “The unthinkable sacrifice he made must not be in vain,” she said.

    Navalny's widow could therefore use his name and her own great popularity. However, this is still difficult to predict at the moment, said Burkhardt.

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