Unpredictable Putin ‘probably would’ use nuclear weapon, says late Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s widow

Unpredictable Putin ‘probably would’ use nuclear weapon, says late Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s widow

The widow of late Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has warned of the unpredictability of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the possibility cannot be ruled out that he might use nuclear weapons at some point.

“We don’t know what to expect from him,” Yulia Navalnaya said in an interview. “He probably would do it.”

She compared the question to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying she had not expected Putin to attack back then, given the strong ties between the two countries.

“But he decided to do it. He frightens people, keeps them in fear,” she said. “Nobody knows what Putin is going to do next.”

Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, after illegally occupying Crimea in 2014.

Navalnaya said she was not sure whether Putin really has a “strong strategy”.

The Navalnys were the most prominent opposition activists in Russia for many years.

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Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pictured at the Freedom Prize of the Media awards ceremony in Germany on Friday. Photo: AFP

Navalny, a long-standing and staunch opponent of Putin, died in a prison camp in the Arctic Circle in Siberia on February 16.

It has not been independently established whether the 47-year-old died naturally, as his death certificate says. However, his supporters say he was murdered.

Navalnaya also commented on the recent arrests of several suspected Russian spies in Europe, saying these are a further sign that Putin has long been waging war in the heart of the continent, using all means necessary.

“Putin did not just start, he has been doing this all along. He starts wars, he kills his opponents,” she said, adding that their presence comes as no surprise to her.

“I always assumed that there were many Russian spies in Europe: Russian spies, that’s obvious.”

Putin did not just start, he has been doing this all along. He starts wars, he kills his opponents
Yulia Navalnaya

Earlier this week, two German-Russian dual nationals were detained in Bavaria for allegedly scouting targets for possible acts of sabotage. Both are now in custody.

In Poland, the security agencies arrested a man who allegedly sought to help Russian military intelligence plan an assassination attempt on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Navalnaya said it was a pity that Europe failed to recognise the danger presented by Moscow sooner, saying if the issue had been raised earlier and more frequently, wars and murders might have been prevented.

She reiterated her determination to fight Putin and called for the strongest possible support from the West, during the interview at the Tegernsee, a lake in the Bavarian Alps to the south of Munich.

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‘Heartbreaking tragedy’: thousands gather to mourn Russian opposition leader Navalny

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Navalnaya herself is not afraid, she said, despite living with a certain degree of risk, which she expects to only grow if she does a good job.

But she dreams of returning to Russia one day. “I want to live in Russia. My children dream of returning to Russia. I want to go to my husband’s grave. It’s very important to me. And I hope that I can do that very, very soon. I dream of going there as soon as possible.”

On Friday, Navalnaya received the German Freedom Prize of the Media, which is awarded annually at the Ludwig Erhard Summit, a forum that gathers top representatives from politics and business.

Navalnaya says she does not currently see a solution to the Ukraine conflict. “The whole world is trying to find a way to solve this problem,” she said, adding that no one has found a solution.

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She said there would be “no simple solution”, though she hopes for reconciliation between Russians and Ukrainians. “But Putin has put both countries in a situation where it will be very difficult to build up relations.”

She was unable to say when Russia’s opposition to Putin might one day be able to destabilise the president. “I really hope and I believe that it will happen much earlier than we all expect.” Nobody knows when and why this might happen, though, she said.

But many people are tired of the war. “They are not supporting it but they are very afraid to say it out loud because it could land them in prison that same day.”

She said she hopes the Russian people will not support further mobilisation of soldiers. “If the government tries to mobilise more and more people for the war, resistance to it will increase.”

Navalnaya also emphasised that Russia is not Putin. “There are many anti-war activists and anti-Putin activists,” she said. “They need to hear the support from the West.”

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