Alexei Navalny's widow has X account suspended

By Isaac M February 20, 2024

Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya has had her account suspended – and then restored – on social media platform X.

The social network, which was formerly Twitter before it was bought by Tesla and SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, said the account was “mistakenly flagged” by the platform’s anti-spam and manipulation system.

“We unsuspended the account as soon as we became aware of the error, and will be updating the defence,” the official account, Safety on X, wrote.

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Mr Navalny, 47, was a high-profile and vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and had been serving a 19-year prison term when he died on Friday in an Arctic penal colony.

His Anti-Corruption Foundation tagged Mr Musk in a post on X, asking him to “please explain exactly which rules were violated” by Mrs Navalnaya for the suspension.

Less than an hour later, X restored Mrs Navalnaya’s access to the social media platform.

Plea to hand over body

Earlier today on her X account, Mrs Navalnaya urged the Kremlin to “give back Alexei’s body and let him be buried with dignity”.

On Monday she vowed to continue her husband’s fight against the Kremlin – and accused Mr Putin of killing the country’s opposition leader in a powerful nine-minute video.

She also suggested her husband might have been killed with a novichok-style nerve agent.

Trend in X suspensions raises questions for Musk

X says it suspends accounts that violate its guidelines that broadly aim to protect users’ safety and privacy, as well as to restrict use of the platform by bots. This includes, but is not limited to, accounts that promote violence, harass people, post spam or share others’ personal details.

When Yulia Navalnaya’s account was temporarily suspended, the platform did not offer an explanation as to which of its guidelines was breached, but suggested that it considered her to have violated its code of conduct in some way.

The reason for the temporary suspension remains unclear, but it contradicts the image Elon Musk has tried to create for X under his leadership.

The platform, which was acquired by the Tesla founder in 2022, has moved to reinstate the accounts of a number of users who had been permanently banned, including former US president Donald Trump.

Musk has previously referred to himself as a “free speech absolutist” and said he wanted X to be a space where a wide range of beliefs could be debated in a healthy manner.

But Ms Navalnaya’s temporary suspension is the latest in a series of suspensions of prominent accounts since the start of the year. In early January, Musk said he would investigate claims X had suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists and others who had criticised the Israeli government.

“Obviously, it is ok to be critical of anything, but it is not ok to call for extreme violence, as that is illegal,” he said in a post on the platform. “(Apart from the ‘UN Exemption’, where officials from countries recognised by the UN can say what they say at the UN).”

It remains shrouded in mystery how decisions about suspensions are made, and X under Musk’s leadership has been anything but predictable. But the trend in suspensions raises questions about which political views are accepted on the platform and which are not.

In the video, published on YouTube and shared on X by Mr Navalny’s official spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, she alleged officials’ refusal to hand over his body to his mother was part of a cover-up.

“They are cowardly and meanly hiding his body, refusing to give it to his mother and lying miserably while waiting for the trace of” poison to disappear, Mrs Navalnaya said.

In her video statement, Mrs Navalnaya said: “By killing Alexei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and half of my soul.”

“But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up.

“I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny,” she said.

‘Allegations absolutely unfounded’

The Kremlin has denied the allegations as “unfounded” and “insolent”.

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “These are absolutely unfounded, insolent accusations about the head of the Russian state.”

But in response, Mrs Navalnaya said she “could not care less” about the comments of Mr Peskov, who she called the “murderer’s press secretary” – in response to her allegations of Mr Putin’s involvement in Mr Navalny’s death.

“Give back Alexei’s body and let him be buried with dignity, don’t get in the way of people saying goodbye to him,” she said.

The Russian president has not commented publicly on Mr Navalny’s death, and, according to his spokesperson, has not seen the video by his widow.

Meanwhile, Mr Peskov also defended police who arrested mourners and protesters paying tribute to Mr Navalny in Russia, saying officers were acting “in accordance with the law”.

More than 60,000 people have submitted requests to the government asking for Mr Navalny’s remains to be handed over to his relatives, according to the human rights group, OVD-Info.

On Tuesday, Mr Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, released a video in which she accused Russian authorities of not releasing her son’s body to her and urged Mr Putin to intervene.

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Navalny’s mother makes appeal

In the video, taken outside the barbed wire of the prison where her son died, she said: “For the fifth day, I have been unable to see him. They wouldn’t release his body to me. And they’re not even telling me where he is.”

She added: “I’m reaching out to you, Vladimir Putin.

“The resolution of this matter depends solely on you. Let me finally see my son.

“I demand that Alexei’s body is released immediately, so that I can bury him like a human being,” she said in the footage posted on social media by Mr Navalny’s team.

Russian authorities have said the cause of Mr Navalny’s death is still unknown and refused to release his body for the next two weeks as the preliminary inquest continues and a “chemical analysis” is carried out, his team has said.

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US announced new sanctions

Meanwhile, Mr Navalny’s brother has been placed on Russia‘s wanted list, according to state media.

A new criminal case has been opened against Oleg Navalny, making him a wanted man in Russia.

Read more:
Russia denies claims Navalny was poisoned
Trump breaks silence on Navalny’s death

Alexei Navalny (L) and his brother Oleg Navalny at a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, in 2014. Pic: Reuters
Alexei Navalny (L) and his brother Oleg Navalny at a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, in 2014. Pic: Reuters

In 2021, he was handed a one-year suspended sentence for breaking COVID restrictions after he was accused of calling for Russians to attend a rally for his brother.

He was sentenced in absentia in February 2022 to one year in prison for violating the terms of the suspended sentence.

His whereabouts are unknown. He travelled to Cyprus in 2021 and did not return to Russia, according to court documents cited by news agencies.

On Tuesday, the White House announced a “major sanctions package” against Russia in response to the death of Mr Navalny.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said that the package, due to be announced on Friday, would “hold Russia accountable for what happened to Mr Navalny” and for its actions over the course of the war in Ukraine.


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