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Alexey Navalny's wife Yulia says her imprisoned husband "has already won" despite ongoing struggle in Putin's Russia

Alexey Navalny's wife Yulia issues statement
Alexey Navalny's wife Yulia issues statement to 60 Minutes 01:47

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, said in comments provided to 60 Minutes it was an easy decision for her and her husband to return to Moscow despite an assassination attempt that nearly killed him last year. 

"Whatever comes next, Alexey has already won," Yulia Navalnaya wrote to 60 Minutes. "He survived this horrible poisoning and returned to Moscow to face those who tried to murder him. Putin knows it. His advisors, his friends, his government, everybody in his inner circle know it. Driven by embarrassment and anger, Putin has nothing left to do but to physically torture Alexey in prison. Make his life almost worse than if he died. Destroy the organization that my husband created. Arrest his colleagues, friends and relatives. What else can he do? Ask to kill him again?"

Navalny has been in Russian custody since returning from Germany in January, where he was recovering after being poisoned with military-grade Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Upon his return to Russia, Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport and charged with violating the terms of a previous suspended sentence for failing to check-in with prison officials while in Germany. A Russian court remanded him to serve the remaining 32 months in jail. 

Alexei Navalny sentenced to 3.5 years in prison
Alexey Navalny at a February court hearing where he was sentenced to serve jail time. Moscow City Court Press Office

Navalny said the trial was a political sham and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the assassination attempt. The Kremlin denied any involvement.

"They're imprisoning one person to frighten millions," Navalny said. "This isn't a demonstration of strength, it's a show of weakness." 

While in prison the 44-year-old went on a 24-day hunger strike that he ended Friday. Navalny began the protest over a perceived lack of proper medical care. He had been complaining of pain in his back and numbness in his legs. 

During the more than three-week hunger strike, Navalny grew increasingly ill and spent time in both a prison infirmary and hospital. He also underwent tests at a civilian hospital. His doctors, who were not allowed to see him, warned that he would "die within several days" if urgent medical treatment was not administered. 

The United States warned Moscow that there would be "consequences" if Navalny died in Russian custody. 

Yulia Navalnaya flashes a victory sign at an April rally for her husband. Getty Images

"I am very proud of my husband," Yulia Navalnaya wrote to 60 Minutes. "Every minute of every day. I admire his bravery and courage, his tenacity and strength. I stand by him and his beliefs, and I am so happy to be joined by thousands of Russians who are fighting for a better future for our country together with us."

Alexey Navalny, a lawyer and former presidential candidate, is one of the most prominent critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many previous opposition leaders have died in questionable and concerning ways, including Boris Nemtsov who was shot four times outside the Kremlin in 2015. 

Last October, 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed Navalny in Berlin about the assassination attempt on his own life.

"I have a lot of people to support me, but even if I would be dead…nothing [would] change," Navalny told 60 Minutes in 2020. "My organization, my foundation…they continue to work. And this is something very important for me and for everyone else."

Alexey Navalny on leading the Russian opposition 01:46

In 2017, when Stahl first interviewed Navalny for 60 Minutes, she asked him if the movement he led was worth risking his life. 

"I'm trying to not think about it," Navalny said to 60 Minutes in 2017. "Because look, I think I'm ready to sacrifice everything for my job and for the people who [are] surrounding me. I'm not [going to] let them down. And I'm trying to not to reflect about it all the time."

From the 60 Minutes archives: Alexey Navalny 12:44

Stahl posed the same question to Navalny after the assassination attempt last year.

"I feel even more [strongly] and I feel that they try to make this [assassination] attempt and now, from my experience it's not a theoretical for me…if they will try to kill me," Navalny told Stahl in their most recent interview. "Do I feel some fear? Will I abandon my job because they try to kill me? Now from my experience, personal experience, I just now know that I don't feel any fear. And I'm ready to continue to work."

October 2020: Alexey Navalny describes the poisoning ordeal he says Vladimir Putin perpetrated 14:00

The videos above were produced by Keith Zubrow and Sarah Shafer Prediger. They were edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.

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