MOSCOW/WASHINGTON: The US ambassador to Moscow visited a makeshift shrine to Alexei Navalny on Sunday, as Russian authorities suppressed memorials and tributes to the late opposition leader.

Rights groups say police have detained over 400 people at gatherings for the politician, a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin who died in an Arctic prison Friday.

Ambassador Lynne Tracy was pictured on Sunday at the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to political repression that has become a major site of tributes for Navalny.

“Today at the Solovetsky Stone we mourn the death of Alexei Navalny and other victims of political repression in Russia,” the US embassy in Moscow said on social media.

US envoy visits opposition leader’s shrine amid heavy police curbs

“We extend our deepest condolences to Alexei Navalny’s family, colleagues and supporters. His strength is an inspiring example. We honour his memory,” it said.

At a separate makeshift memorial known as the “Wall of Grief”, a bronze monument to Soviet-era repression, police had set up fences in a bid to ward off mourners. Several dozen police officers could be seen standing nearby, but some people were allowed to enter through the fence and lay flowers, a reporter saw.

Navalny, aged 47, was seen by many Russians as their best hope for change after years of perceived corruption and spiralling state oppression. His death after over three years behind bars sparked a storm of condemnation from the West and despair among his supporters, many of whom are young people.

“It was not a death, it was murder,” Leonid Volkov, a top Navalny ally, wrote on Telegram on Saturday. “His life’s work must win out,” he said.

Trump’s silence slammed

Donald Trump’s last remaining Republican rival for the US election in November bashed the ex-president on Sunday for his continued silence over the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his recent outburst over Nato.

“The fact that he won’t acknowledge anything with Navalny — either he sides with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and thinks it’s cool that Putin killed one of his political opponents, or he just doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Nikki Haley said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Either one of those is concerning. Either one of those is a problem,” added the Republican candidate, who is trailing far behind Trump in the race for their party’s nomination.

Navalny’s still-unexplained death in a prison in Russia’s Arctic has drawn powerful condemnations from leaders around the world, starting with US President Joe Biden, who has squarely blamed Putin. But Trump, Biden’s likely opponent in November, has yet to say a word about it at any of several public appearances since Navalny’s death was reported.

The Trump campaign, asked for comment, has directed reporters to a post on Trump’s Truth Social platform that says, “America is no longer respected because we have an incompetent president who is weak and doesn’t understand what the World is thinking.” The post does not mention Navalny, Russia or Putin.

The lack of comment comes days after Trump stunned Western allies by saying he would “encourage” Russia to attack members of the Nato military alliance who had not met their financial obligations.

The suggestion cast a pall over a major global security conference in Munich, drawing a warning from Nato Secretary General Jens Stolten­berg that Trump should not “undermine” the alliance’s security.

Biden also lashed out at Trump’s remark as “dangerous” and “un-American.” Haley, the former UN ambassador under Trump, has not spared Biden from foreign policy criticism, but she called her former boss’ Nato comment “bone-chilling.”

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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