Yulia Navalnaya's appeal to the EU Foreign Affairs Council

February 20, 2024

Dear Mister High Representative, dear ladies, and gentlemen

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I wish this meeting were under different circumstances. But the truth is, I'm here because three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Alexei Navalny. 

He killed my closest person, he killed the father of my children, he killed half of my heart and half of my soul. 

Somewhere in a far away Siberian prison, beyond the Arctic Circle, in eternal winter, Putin didn't just kill my husband, Alexei Navalny. He also tried to crush the hopes of millions of Russian people. He killed the symbol of strength, bravery, and resistance. 

The tragic events of the past three years unfolded in full view of the entire world, right before our eyes. 

I can’t say that you didn't see it, that you turned away or were indifferent. No, you watched, you published the statements, and you said the right things. And I am grateful for that. Representatives of the European Union attended Alexei's court hearings. European diplomacy expressed support for political prisoners. These were strong and important statements, often mentioning red lines that Putin can’t cross. 

But sadly it was not enough. Putin lives in a different world; he doesn't care about red lines. How many more of these red lines, drawn in blood, should there be?

My daughter, (our daughter with Alexei), Darya, spoke at the European Parliament two years ago. She received the Sakharov Prize on behalf of her dad and said, I quote: 'Years of flirting with Putin made it clear to him that to increase his ratings… he can start a war.' This was said in December 2021, two months before the war. Darya was only 20 years old at that time, and everything was clear to her.

Putin indeed started a war. Putin killed my husband, Darya's father. Putin has proven that nothing can be negotiated, he doesn't understand the language of diplomacy, and he doesn't recognize any rules of the game. So, should we also stop playing by the rules this time? 

We must, instead of making statements... take actions. Let's not promise the impossible, let's not spend years discussing, let's do something. Today, I will make several such proposals, but first, I want to explain why I am making them. 

My husband was a hero and died as a hero in the struggle for freedom. But he was also a talented politician. He participated in elections. He formulated ideas for the future of our country. He inspired millions with these ideas. He established a powerful political organization, the Anti Corruption Foundation. This organization has not disappeared, these people have not disappeared, and most importantly, these ideas have not disappeared. Because an idea can’t be tortured in prison. An idea can’t be poisoned with ‘Novichok’. 

Today, I released a message to Alexei's supporters, stating that I will continue his work. I will do everything to ensure that the unimaginable sacrifice Alexei made does not go in vain. And this can only be achieved in one way — by making sure that his idea prevails. 

So what IS this idea? It's very simple. The idea is that Russia can be a normal European country. Just like yours. A peaceful democratic country. A country where political conflicts are resolved through fair elections and not through prisons, poisons, and bullets. I understand that this may seem boring to you because you already have all of this. And you take it for granted. But the people in Russia don't have it; Putin stole it all from them. Stole it along with all the money from selling oil and gas to you, along with the hope for the future, along with freedom. 

I will continue Alexei Navalny's work. Russia, a free, peaceful, and happy country… The beautiful Russia of the future that my husband dreamt about – we now need it more than ever. Exactly as Alexei Navalny envisioned it. Full of dignity, justice, and love. It is important for me to address the representatives of all European countries. Because our ‘Beautiful Russia of the future’ — is a European country. 

Since I mentioned Darya's speech, I'll quote her and Alexei again. She said:

“When I asked my father, 'What do you want me to say before the European Parliament?' he replied, 'Say that no one can dare to equate Russia to Putin’.”

Well, I will repeat this in my own name here, at the Foreign Affairs Council: Putin is not Russia. Russia is not Putin. Today, tens of thousands of people across Russia are bringing flowers to makeshift memorials. They are being beaten and detained by the police, but they persist. This is Russia. The Russia of Alexei Navalny. 

And I present my proposals on behalf of Navalny's Russia. 

First of all, Putin killed my husband exactly one month before the so-called elections. These elections are fake, but Putin still needs them for propaganda. He wants the world to believe that everyone in Russia supports him and admires him. Don't believe this propaganda. 

Don’t recognize these elections. A president who kills his main political opponent is not legitimate by definition. Impose sanctions. Punish his so-called ‘trusted representatives’. There are roughly 500 people: celebrities, singers, actors who support and campaign for Putin and help his murderous regime survive. If they love Putin so much, how come their houses and villas, their children and wives are here, in Europe? 

Secondly. The foundation of Putin's regime is corruption. Putin himself is probably the richest person in the world. All his friends are billionaires. And they all exploit what Europe considers its strength: the rule of law. Yes, you have imposed sanctions on some of them. But the billionaires have suffered little; they have hired the best lawyers and transferred everything they own to their families and friends. It’s no longer theirs, which means it cannot be seized. It sounds wrong, isn’t it? The villa of Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila in Biarritz, France, bought with corrupt money is still not arrested! Putin's friends are simply laughing at you. 

If the law does not allow punishing war criminals and killers, then it’s broken. It must be changed. Alexei’s colleagues from the Anti-Corruption Foundation have been investigating the corrupt connections of Putin's inner circle for 12 years. They can guide you on everything. They know where, what, and who has stolen billions from the Russian people. And where they hide them. Seek their assistance. Create a special body that will investigate informal connections, money movements, and real owners. Let's make Putin's friends truly suffer and pay for everything. For the crimes, for the suffering, for the awful aggressive war they have started against Ukraine. 

Thirdly. This is very important. Always distinguish between Putin and Russia. People running away from war and dictatorship aren’t your enemies. They need sympathy and protection. They shouldn’t be punished; they should be helped. A mechanism like a modern-day Nansen Commission is needed. Exactly these people will one day become part of the ‘Beautiful Russia of the future.’ They want to help Russia become a normal country so they can return home. And you should help them. 

One last thing. As we speak, Alexei’s body is still not released to his mother. The criminals are covering up their crimes. Don’t let them get away again.

Thank you for your attention and the opportunity to speak. We don't give up; we will continue to fight. Your support is crucial to us.

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