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Biden blames Putin for Alexey Navalny's reported death in Russian prison

Washington — President Joe Biden on Friday blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, saying he was "outraged" but "not surprised" by the news. 

"Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny's death," Mr. Biden said from the White House, adding that is was "more proof of Putin's brutality."

Navalny died in a Russian penal colony, prison authorities said Friday. The prison authority said Navalny "felt unwell" after going for a walk on Friday and "almost immediately" lost consciousness. Resuscitation measures were attempted, but emergency doctors confirmed his death. He had survived at least two previous suspected poisoning attempts. 

When asked whether Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition leader, was assassinated, Mr. Biden replied, "We don't know exactly what happened." 

"But there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did," he said. 

Mr. Biden said Navalny was a "powerful voice for the truth," who "bravely stood up to the corruption" of Putin's government. 

He accused Putin of having Navalny poisoned, arrested and held in isolation, and said it didn't stop Navalny "from calling out all those lies." The president noted that Navalny might have lived out his life "safely in exile," but instead returned to Russia because of his belief in his country and his people, even though he knew he might be imprisoned or killed.

The life and impact of Alexey Navalny 02:33

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, said if the reports of his death were confirmed, "this would be a further sign of Putin's brutality. Whatever story they tell, let us be clear: Russia is responsible."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also blamed Putin and said that if the reports are accurate, "[Navalny's] death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this."

Mr. Biden also invoked Russia's war against Ukraine, saying Navalny's death "reminds us of the stakes of this moment," and he urged Congress to provide more funding to its ally. 

"We have to provide the funding so Ukraine can keep defending itself against Putin's vicious onslaughts and war crimes," he said. "There was a bipartisan Senate vote that passed overwhelmingly in the United States Senate to fund Ukraine. Now, as I've said before, and I mean this in a literal sense, history is watching. History is watching the House of Representatives." 

The president also criticized former President Donald Trump, who recently said he would allow Russia to invade NATO allies that haven't paid 2% of their gross domestic product to the mutual defense pact. 

"This is an outrageous thing for a president to say. I can't fathom," Mr. Biden said. "As long as I'm president, America stands by our sacred commitment to our NATO allies, as they have stood by their commitments to us repeatedly." 

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