How Yulia Navalnaya, widow of late Alexei Navalny, became the target of a disinformation campaign

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left, and his wife Yulia after a rally in rain-soaked Moscow, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013.
FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left, and his wife Yulia after a rally in rain-soaked Moscow, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. Copyright Evgeny Feldman/Copyright 2014 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Evgeny Feldman/Copyright 2014 The AP. All rights reserved
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Various accounts accuse her of being in a new relationship with a Russian billionaire, despite the very recent death of her husband.

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Yulia Navalnaya published a video on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday in which she vowed to continue the political work of her late husband, Alexei Navalny, who recently died in a Russian penal colony.

And within hours, multiple accounts on the platform started massively sharing images of Navalnaya with another man on a beach, accusing the widow of already having found someone new.

"Me and my new boyfriend are devastated by my husband’s death," wrote one user.

"Here’s a photo of the grieving widow with a photo of her latest boyfriend," posted another.

But after doing a reverse image search, Euronews found the photo they were spreading is actually old. 

It was posted on Instagram in August 2021 by the Russian businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who is standing next to Navalnaya in the picture.

Chichvarkin is the co-founder and former owner of Euroset, the first Russian mobile phone distributor.

Now a wine trader in London and restaurateur, he has become a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He fled Russia for the UK in 2009, and since 2010, he has donated over €100,000 to Alexei Navalny, according to an article published two years ago by Time magazine.

The businessman posted pictures taken with Navanly, whom he calls a close friend, the day after his sudden death in an Arctic Circle prison. 

On social media, Chichvarkin has shared multiple pictures with his partner Tatiana Fokina, with whom he runs a restaurant in London.

A digitally altered photo

Another image already being shared on social media purports to show evidence that Navalnaya and Chichvarkin are having a relationship.

This image appears to show her hugging Chichvarkin while he holds a cannabis joint.

"Navalny turning in his grave right now... His wife and her new boyfriend sending condolences," said one user.

But once again, using the reverse image search tool, The Cube found this photo had been altered.

The real photo was taken in 2013 and shows Yulia Navalnaya embracing her husband after he was freed from jail. Chichvarkin’s face and the cannabis joint have been photoshopped onto the original image.

This is not the first time Yulia Navalnaya has been attacked by a disinformation campaign. Both of these misleading images have been circulating online for years. 

But this time, they have shared by websites such as Pravda, known for spreading pro-Kremlin disinformation.

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