Navalny's widow invited to Biden speech but not able to attend: White House | World News - Hindustan Times

Navalny's widow invited to Biden's State of Union speech but not able to attend: White House

Mar 06, 2024 03:28 AM IST

The US President had personally invited Yulia Navalanya, spouse of late Putin critic Alexei Navalny, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told press.

US President Joe Biden invited the widow of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to attend his State of the Union speech on Thursday but she cannot attend, the White House said.

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (AFP)
Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (AFP)

Russia will be a key theme for guests at the annual primetime address to Congress, with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson hosting the parents of detained US reporter Evan Gershkovich.

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Also Read: Alexei Navalny buried in Moscow amid thousands of defiant mourners

The White House said Tuesday that Biden, who is giving his last State of the Union before November's US election, personally invited Yulia Navalnaya when they met a few days after Navalny died in an Arctic prison on February 16.

"I can confirm that she was indeed invited to the State of the Union. She is no longer able to attend," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

"I would have to refer you to her people as to specifically why," she said, confirming that Biden himself invited her when they met.

Also Read: Navalny’s death, a crisis moment for democracy

House Speaker Johnson, who is blocking US military aid for Ukraine in Congress, said separately that he was "honored" to host Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich for the speech.

He said the invitation would shine a "spotlight on the unjust detention of their son," Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russia nearly a year ago on espionage charges.

The US government has declared that Gershkovich, who categorically denies the spying accusations, is wrongfully detained, and negotiations are underway to swap him in a prisoner exchange.

Also Read: Canada announces fresh sanctions against Russia over Navalny's death

Johnson said on X that the Biden administration "must bring Evan home."

Each year the White House invites citizens and personalities who somehow symbolize the priorities of the president's primetime speech, and who sit alongside the First Lady.

One of its invitees this year is Kate Cox, a Texas woman who had to leave the state for an abortion after learning her fetus was not viable.

Biden has made it a key theme of his reelection bid, after his likely Republican election rival Donald Trump bragged that his Supreme Court picks had enabled the overturning of the federal right to abortion.

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