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Navalny death must spur U.S. lawmakers to act against Russia, Biden says

The sudden death of Russia's opposition leader, as reported by Russian officials, has landed amid a momentous battle in Washington over whether to keep funding Russia's military enemy. President Joe Biden blamed Russia's leader for the death and urged his own country to respond by passing a bill to provide assistance to Ukraine.

U.S. president wants Congress to punish Russia by extending military aid for Ukraine

Biden looks dejected, with head down and hands up. He's standing in front of a U.S. flag and a framed portrait of George Washington.

The reported death of Russia's opposition leader has landed in the midst of a momentous battle in Washington over whether to keep funding Russia's military adversary.

President Joe Biden expressed a hope Friday that lawmakers in his country would respond to the death of Alexei Navalny by punishing Russia through extending weapons assistance to Ukraine.

He saluted Navalny as a brave, principled man who knowingly risked his safety by returning to Russia from exile in 2021.

Biden made clear at a news conference Friday that he blames Russia's leader for the death, even if the specific cause remains unknown: "[Vladimir] Putin [once] had him poisoned, he had him arrested, he had him prosecuted…. Putin is responsible."

He said he was outraged, but not surprised, by Navalny's death, reported Friday by the prison service of the remote Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been serving his sentence.

Biden then urged members of the U.S. Congress to respond by passing a bill that would send Ukraine nearly $60 billion US in weapons, roughly one year's supply.

WATCH | Biden addresses reported death of Alexei Navalny:

Biden has ‘no doubt’ Putin is responsible in Navalny’s reported death

14 hours ago

Duration 2:04

U.S. President Joe Biden says 'we don't know exactly what happened' to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was reported dead by Russian officials. But Biden says there's 'no doubt' Navalny's death was a consequence of Russian officials — and Vladimir Putin.

"History is watching the House of Representatives," Biden said of the bill, which passed the Senate but risks getting stuck in the Republican-led House.

Biden was unequivocal when asked whether Navalny's death might spur movement on the bill. "I hope to God it helps." But he took a dig at the House of Representatives for going on recess, calling the legislative delay ludicrous.

"It's about time they step up, don't you think? Instead of going on a two-week vacation," Biden said. "Two weeks! What are they thinking? My God. This is bizarre.… This is outrageous."

Biden said he's also considering new sanctions on top of the ones he's already announced against Russia, but did not get into specifics: "We're looking at a whole number of options."

Divisions on the right when it comes to Russia

The reaction to Navalny's death on the U.S. right has been complex. The Republican Party and conservative movement remained torn on matters related to Putin's Russia.

In their public statements Friday, Republicans appeared to be taking shots at each other. From lawmakers to staffers, some accused their fellow partisans of being Putin lackeys.

Former vice-president Mike Pence called Putin a war criminal and said there's no room in the Republican Party for his apologists. In a similar message to his own party, Sen. Mitt Romney quoted scripture from the Book of Isaiah: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil."

But the Republican Party's presumed presidential nominee didn't say anything. Donald Trump didn't mention the bombshell world news among his dozens of social media posts Friday. The silence was reminiscent of 2020 when Navalny was poisoned and Trump avoided discussing it.

Trump's long shot primary opponent Nikki Haley issued a statement to draw attention to his apparent disinterest in broaching the topic.

"Putin murdered his political opponent and Trump hasn't said a word after he said he would encourage Putin to invade our allies," she posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

"[Trump] has, however, posted 20+ times on social media about his legal drama and fake polls."

Some of Trump's boosters offered an alternate take on Friday's news. In their telling, he is the Navalny in American politics, the persecuted opposition politician.

This was on a day Trump, who already faces 91 criminal charges, was fined nearly $355 million US in a New York court for fraudulent business practices. Trump will appeal.

The jarring news from Russia came amid an ongoing debate about right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson's recent trip to Russia. Carlson interviewed Putin and commented favourably on life in Russia, pointing to a beautiful Moscow train station and cheaper groceries.

At a summit earlier this week in Dubai, Carlson was asked why he didn't push Putin about topics including Navalny, free speech in Russia, political assassinations, or banning political opposition.

Carlson replied that he didn't want to bother asking predictable questions other western media would have asked. He also appeared to justify Putin's political violence.

"Every leader kills people. Including my leader. Every leader kills people," Carlson said. "Some kill more than others. Leadership requires killing people. Sorry."

However, after Friday's news, the former Fox News host released a statement calling Navalny's death horrifying, awful, barbaric, and something no decent person would defend.

WATCH | Trudeau says Navalny an inspiration for standing up to Putin:

Trudeau reflects on Navalny's 'extraordinary courage' following reports of his death

16 hours ago

Duration 1:43

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Alexei Navalny was a fighter for human rights, democracy and standing up for the Russian people and the country's future. Navalny's reported death is a moment to reflect on his courage and inspiration and "double and triple down in our resolve" to stand up against Vladimir Putin, Trudeau added.

With divisions in the party, the Republican House leadership split the difference.

Speaker Mike Johnson condemned the Russian leader but, on the other hand, remained coy about what he intends to do on the most pressing U.S.-Russia issue of the moment: the military funding bill.

"Vladimir Putin is a vicious dictator and the world knows he is likely directly responsible," Johnson said in a statement. "This is the latest attempt to send a message to those working to confront Moscow's aggression. In the coming days, as international leaders are meeting in Munich, we must be clear that Putin will be met with united opposition."

He added that, as Congress considers the bill, the U.S. and its partners should use economic measures to cut off Putin's ability to fund his Ukraine war.

A man stands behind prison bars.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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