Biden says Putin responsible for Navalny's death

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin
US President Joe Biden (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AFP

Washington: US President Joe Biden on Friday said he was “not surprised” but “outraged” after the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“He bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence and all the bad things the Putin government was doing,” Biden said at the White House of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death.”

The White House was seeking more information about Navalny's death at a Russian penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, where he was dispatched less than two months ago.

The development has put a further chill into already bitter U.S.-Russian relations.

The 47-year-old Navalny had been a leading critic of Putin, and Biden had said after meeting Putin in Geneva in June 2021 that Nalvany's death would risk devastating consequences for Putin.

Biden and Putin remain deeply at odds over Russia's invasion of Ukraine two years ago, and Biden is urging Republican hardliners in the U.S. Congress to support additional funding to pay for more weaponry for Ukraine's military.

Russia has figured prominently on the campaign trail as Biden seeks reelection in November.

His expected Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, triggered bipartisan outrage last week by saying he would do nothing to defend NATO allies from Russia unless they paid a greater share for the common defenses.

The top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has not put a Senate bill for new funding for Ukraine up to a vote. After Navalny's death, he said the U.S. and its allies should use "every means available to cut off Putin’s ability to fund his unprovoked war in Ukraine and aggression against the Baltic states."

In Munich for a major security conference, Vice President Kamala Harris vowed that the U.S. would never retreat from its NATO alliance obligations put in place after World War Two, contrasting Biden's approach to global engagement with presidential election hopeful Trump's isolationist views.

She also met with Alexei Navalny's wife Yulia on the margins of the conference and "expressed her sorrow and outrage" over reports of her husband's death, a White House official said.

Biden's presidential reelection campaign on Friday released a new minute-long advertisement blasting Trump for abandoning NATO. They planned to target the ad to 2.5 million American voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania who trace their ancestry to the NATO states bordering Russia.

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