Harris on Navalny's death: Whatever story they tell, Russia is responsible

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Vice President Harris called the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison “a further sign” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutality in an address at a western security conference in Munich.

“We’ve all just received reports that Alexei Navalny has died in Russia. This is of course terrible news, which we are working to confirm,” Harris said at the top of keynote remarks at the Munich Security Conference.

“My prayers are with his family, including his wife Yulia, who is with us today,” Harris continued. “If confirmed, this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality. Whatever story they tell, let us be clear: Russia is responsible, and we will have more to say on this later.”

Harris became the highest-ranking official in the Biden administration to weigh in on Navalny’s death since it was reported early Friday.

Her comments came at the outset of a speech in which she laid out the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, and its commitment to the NATO alliance amid skepticism from the likes of former President Trump, the leading GOP presidential candidate.

“There are some in the United States who…suggest it is in the best interest of the American people to isolate ourselves from the world. To flout common understandings among nations. To embrace dictators and adopt their oppressive tactics and abandon commitments to our allies in favor of unilateral action,” Harris said.

“Let me be clear: That worldview is dangerous, destabilizing and indeed short-sighted. That view would weaken America and would undermine global stability and undermine global prosperity,” she continued. “President Biden and I therefore reject that view.”

Navalny, who gained notoriety as an outspoken critic of Putin and the leader of the political opposition in Russia, died at the age of 47 on Friday while in prison.

The Russian Federal Prison Service said Navalny felt unwell after a walk and lost consciousness. An ambulance arrived and its crew tried to rehabilitate him but was unsuccessful, it added.

Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism and in December was moved from a different prison to the highest-security level facility in the country near the Arctic Circle. The “special regime” penal colony prison in the town of Kharp, which is about 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow, is in a remote area known for its severe winters.

Navalny has been imprisoned since January 2021 when he returned to Russia after recovering from a poisoning that he blamed on Putin, who has denied trying to kill Navalny with a nerve agent.

The Biden administration has pushed for Congress to pass billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia, but it has faced stiff opposition from the Republican-led House.

At the same time, Trump has made waves in recent days with comments suggesting he would not protect NATO allies from a Russian attack if they had not contributed enough toward defense spending.

Updated at 9:18 a.m.

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