A Russian court orders the arrest of opposition leader Navalny's widow, who lives abroad

A court in Russia ordered the arrest of the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny during a hearing Tuesday that was conducted in absentia as part of a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on the opposition.

Yulia Navalnaya, who lives abroad, would face arrest if and when she returns to Russia.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ruled to arrest Navalnaya on charges of alleged involvement in an extremist group.

Navalny, the fiercest political foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in February in an Arctic penal colony while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges that he had condemned as politically motivated. Authorities said he became ill after a walk but have otherwise given no details on Navalny's death.

Navalny was imprisoned after returning to Moscow in January 2021 from Germany, where he had been recuperating from the 2020 nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Navalnaya has accused Putin of her husband’s death and vowed to continue his activities. Russian officials have vehemently denied involvement in Navalny's poisoning and death.

Navalnaya mocked the court's order on social media platform X, saying that it's Putin who should be be prosecuted. Her spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, described the court's ruling as a recognition of her “merits.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz noted on X that Navalnaya is carrying on her husband's legacy and denounced the Moscow court's ruling as “an arrest warrant against the desire for freedom and democracy.”

Russian authorities haven’t specified the charges against Navalnaya. They appear to relate to authorities designating Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption as an extremist organization. The 2021 court ruling that outlawed Navalny's group forced his close associates and team members to leave Russia.

A number of journalists have been jailed on similar charges in recent months in relation to their coverage of Navalny.

The Kremlin's crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and ordinary Russians critical of it has intensified after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

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