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Russia's Alexei Navalny penned secret memoir before his death, says widow

Published 04/11/2024, 11:05 AM
Updated 04/11/2024, 01:15 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends the Munich Security Conference (MSC), on the day it was announced that Alexei Navalny is dead by the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been s

By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) -Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny wrote an autobiography before he died which will be published later this year, his widow Yulia Navalnaya said on Thursday, revealing the existence of a text his inner circle had kept secret for years.

Navalny, who died aged 47 in an Arctic prison in February, had wanted to become president of Russia and was Vladimir Putin's fiercest domestic critic. His allies, branded extremists by the authorities, accused Putin of having him murdered and have said they will provide proof to back that allegation.

The Kremlin has denied any state involvement in his death and, when he was alive, dismissed Navalny, a former lawyer who oversaw corruption investigations into Russia's political elite, as a marginal U.S.-backed troublemaker out to destabilise Russia.

Navalnaya, his widow, said in a post on X from outside Russia that her late husband had started to write the memoir - titled "Patriot" - in 2020 after he had been poisoned by what Western doctors said was a nerve agent and had been flown to Germany for medical treatment.

She said the book would be released simultaneously in at least 11 different languages on Oct. 22 and appear in Navalny's native Russian.

"This is not at all how I imagined Alexei would write his biography. I thought that we would be in our 80s, and that he would be sitting at his computer by the open window and be typing away," Navalnaya said.

"But things turned out the way they did. Horribly and very, very unfairly. Nevertheless, Alexei started writing a book at that time (in 2020) and was unexpectedly quickly drawn into the process.

He liked to recall the events of his life in connection with events in the country. For example, he enjoyed describing his childhood," Navalnaya said.

'NOW THE SECRETS ARE OVER'

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokesperson, described how Navalny had begun to dictate parts of the book to her while he was convalescing in Germany two months after his poisoning and that he had finished the book when in prison after returning to Russia in 2021.

"Alexei had a rare talent of being instantly able to pronounce written text. My job was to keep up with him and occasionally interject: "you just used that same word!" Yarmysh wrote on the Telegram messenger service.

"I heard people talking about his (social media) posts from prison: 'Alexei writes so well, I wish he'd write a book!' And I wanted to clap my hands and shout, 'He is writing one! He is writing one!' But we agreed to keep everything a secret. Now the secrets are over," she said.

Penguin Books UK in a statement on X described the book as the "full story of Navalny’s life and a rousing call to continue the work for which he sacrificed his life".

In the United States the autobiography is being published by Alfred A. Knopf, which published a separate statement from his widow.

"Sharing his story will not only honor his memory but also inspire other to stand up for what is right and to never lose sight of the values that truly matter," Knopf cited Navalnaya as saying.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends the Munich Security Conference (MSC), on the day it was announced that Alexei Navalny is dead by the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been serving his sentence, in Munich, Germany February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Pool/File Photo

The book is unlikely to be readily available in Navalny's native Russia, where the authorities outlawed his movement as extremist and cast his supporters as U.S.-backed troublemakers out to foment revolution.

Putin last month called Navalny's death "sad" and said he had been ready to hand the jailed politician over to the West in a prisoner exchange provided he never return to Russia.

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