WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Monday ended his lengthy silence on the death of Alexei Navalny, in a statement that avoided criticism of the Kremlin and instead portrayed the Russian opposition leader’s sudden passing as a sign of a collapsing United States.

Navalny died in unexplained circumstances at age 47 in an Arctic prison last week, shocking Russia’s exiled opposition as well as the West, where leaders have blamed President Vladimir Putin and authorities in Moscow.

But former US president Trump, who is leading in Republican Party primary polls ahead of the United States’ November elections, had been mum on the issue — in the face of growing criticism — until a Monday social media post which focused on what he called a “failing” America.

“The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our country,” Trump said on his Truth Social website.

“It is a slow, steady progression, with crooked, radical left politicians, prosecutors and judges leading us down a path to destruction.” Trump decried “open borders, rigged elections and grossly unfair courtroom decisions” in the United States, which he called “a nation in decline.” The post did not mention the Russian government or Putin.

Trump’s main rival for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, dismissed the post as “unhinged” and said Trump was “declaring himself the victim.” “Did he condemn Putin as the brutal thug that he is? No. Did he praise Navalny’s courageous fight? No. Did he acknowledge Putin’s role in killing Navalny and so many others who dared to stand up to the Russian dictator? Of course not,” a statement from her campaign said.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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