Yulia Navalnaya tells MEPs to 'stop being boring' to defeat Putin's regime

Alexei Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, spoke before the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Alexei Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, spoke before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Copyright Jean-Francois BADIAS/
Copyright Jean-Francois BADIAS/
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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The European Parliament needs to "stop being boring" if it wants to stand up to Vladimir Putin, Yulia Navalnaya told the hemicycle on Wednesday.

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"If you really want to defeat Putin, you have to become an innovator. You have to stop being boring," Navalnaya said in a speech to lawmakers in Strasbourg.

"You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different to the last one," she added.

"You cannot defeat him by thinking he is a man of principle who has morals and rules. He is not like that. And Alexei realised that a long time ago. You are not dealing with a politician, but with a bloody monster."

Her speech, interrupted several times by applause, came less than two weeks after her husband Alexei Navalny, considered Putin's fiercest political foe, died in an Arctic penal colony following years of persecution at the hands of the Kremlin.

The exact circumstances of his passing remain unclear. The EU has directly pinned responsibility for his death on Putin's regime.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the bloc has imposed thirteen packages of sanctions aimed at suffocating Russia's ability to modernise its economy and cutting access to critical goods used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

High Representative Josep Borrell has vowed to rename the EU's human rights sanctions regime in Navalny's honour. 

But Navalnaya said the EU needs less symbolism and more targeted investigations focused on Putin's friends and associates, warning that Putin was continuing to hide money – and power – in EU capitals through organised crime networks.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, the NGO that Navalny founded, has compiled a list of thousands of Russian officials, oligarchs and propagandists considered Putin's "bribetakers and warmongers," many of whom remain spared from Western sanctions.

The widow and activist also pleaded with MEPs not to give in to war fatigue or advocate for peace negotiations with the Russian President.

"There is much exhaustion, much blood, much disappointment, and Putin has gone nowhere," she explained, adding that the "public murder" of her husband has shown that Putin is "capable of anything" and that "you cannot negotiate with him."

Russia's war has had a seismic effect across the continent, sparking a revival of the NATO military alliance and forcing the EU to reignite its dormant enlargement policy to prepare Ukraine's path to membership, 

But scepticism among some political camps about the bloc's financial and military support to Kyiv, coupled with a faltering Ukrainian counter-offensive, means Brussels is under pressure to do more to show its commitment to Ukraine's victory.

The prospective return of Donald Trump to the White House means the bloc is gearing up to bolster its defence capacities to back Ukraine without its trans-Atlantic partner.

'Work with us'

Alexei Navalny was 47 when he died in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism. His death has dealt a blow to pro-democracy Russians, an estimated 400 of whom were detained for laying flowers and lighting candles in his memory in Russian cities.

Associates of Navalny have claimed Putin ordered his assassination just days before a planned prisoner swap, which would have seen him and two US citizens exchanged for Vadim Krasikov, a convicted Russian assassin serving a life sentence in Germany.

The EU, which has long saluted Navalny's unwavering fight for Russian democracy, repeatedly denounced Putin's regime for its systemic repression of government critics in the years prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

But the critic's death has shed light on the futility of those efforts, as Putin has continued to deepen his autocracy.

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Navalnaya told the hemicycle that there are "tens of millions" of Russians who oppose the Kremlin but who are unable to express their resistance due to fear.

"We must not persecute them," she said. "On the contrary, you must work with them, with us."

Navalnaya has vowed to continue her husband's crusade and become the new face of Russia's stifled opposition, galvanising pro-democracy Russians to stand up to the regime.

"Putin must answer for what he has done to a neighbouring peaceful country, and Putin must answer for everything he has done to Alexei. My husband will never see what the beautiful Russia of the future will look like. But we must see it, and I will do," she told the Parliament.

"I will do my best to make his (Alexei's) dream come true. The evil will fall and the beautiful future will come," she added.

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The Parliament's president, Roberta Metsola, said that the "hope" Alexei represented remains "as bright as ever."

"The pillars of autocracy always crumble under the weight of its own corruption and people’s desire to live freely," Metsola said.

Navalnaya confirmed that her husband's funeral is due to take place in Moscow's southeast Maryino district on Friday afternoon. She is unsure whether the funeral will be peaceful, or whether Russian police will be present to detain the mourners, she said.

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