Joe Biden

On the Reported Death of Aleksey Navalny

delivered 16 February 2024, White House, Washington, D.C.

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio by the White House]

Good afternoon. I -- Iím heading off to East Palestine in -- in a moment, but I wanted to say a few things this morning about Aleksey Navalny.

You know, like millions of people around the world, I am literally both not surprised and outraged by the news -- the reported death of Aleksey Navalny.

He bravely stood up to the corruption, the violence, and the -- the -- all the -- all the bad things that the Putin government was doing.

In response, Putin had him poisoned. He had him arrested. He had him prosecuted for fabricated crimes. He sentenced him to prison. He was held in isolation. Even all that didnít stop him from calling out Putinís lies. Even in prison, he was a powerful voice of the truth, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.

And he could have lived safely in exile after the assassination attempt on him in 2020 -- which nearly killed him, I might add. And -- But he -- he was traveling outside the country at the time. Instead, he returned to Russia. He returned to Russia knowing heíd likely be imprisoned or even killed if he continued his work. But he did it anyway, because he believed so deeply in his country -- in Russia.

Reports of his death, if theyíre true -- and I have no reason to believe theyíre not -- Russian authorities are going to tell their own story. But make no mistake -- make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalnyís death. Putin is responsible.

What has happened to Navalny is yet more proof of Putinís brutality. No one should be fooled -- not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world. Putin does not only target his [the] citizens of other countries, as weíve seen whatís going on in Ukraine right now, he also inflicts terrible crimes on his own people.

And as people across Russia and around the world are mourning Navalny today because he was so many things that Putin was not: He was brave. He was principled. He was dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and of -- where it applied to everybody. Navalny believed in that Russia -- that Russia. He knew it was a cause worth fighting for and, obviously, even dying for.

This tragedy reminds us of the stakes of this moment. We have to provide the funding so Ukraine can keep defending itself against Putinís vicious onslaughts and war crimes.

You know, there was a bipartisan Senate vote that passed overwhelmingly in the United States Senate to fund Ukraine.

Now, as Iíve said before, and I mean this in the literal sense: History is watching. History is watching the House of Representatives. The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten. Itís going to go down in the pages of history. It really is. Itís consequential.

And the clock is ticking. And this has to happen. We have to help now. You know, we have to realize what weíre dealing with with Putin.

All of us should reject the dangerous statements made by the previous president that invited Russia to invade our NATO Allies if they werenít paying up. He said if an Ally did not pay their dues, heíd encourage Russia to, quote, ďDo whatever the hell they want.Ē

I -- let me -- I guess I should clear my mind here a little bit and not say what Iím really thinking.

But let me be clear: This is an outrageous thing for a president to say. I canít fathom. I canít fathom. From Truman on, theyíre rolling over in their graves hearing this.

As long as Iím President, America stands by our sacred commitment to our NATO Allies as they have stood by their commitments to us repeatedly.

Putin and the whole world should know: If any adversary were to attack us, our NATO Allies would back us. And if Putin were to attack a NATO Ally, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory. Now is the time for even greater unity among our NATO Allies to stand up to the threat that Putinís Russia poses.

You know, I send my deepest condolences to Alekseyís staff and supporters who are going to continue his work despite this loss, despite all of Putinís desperate attempts to stamp out the opposition.

And most of all, to his family, especially to his wife, his daughter, and his son, who have already sacrificed so much for their family and a shared dream for a better future for Russia.

So, I just want to say God bless Aleksey Navalny. His courage will not be forgotten. And Iím sure it will not be the only courage we see coming out of Russia in the near term.

Thank you. Iíll be happy to take a couple questions.

QUESTION: Sir, first, was this an assassination?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: The answer is, I -- we donít know exactly what happened, but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that Putin and his -- and his thugs did.

QUESTION: And to be clear, you warned Vladimir Putin when you were in Geneva of ďdevastatingĒ consequences if Navalny died in Russian custody. What consequences should he and Russia face?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: That was three years ago. In the meantime, they faced a hell of a lot of consequences. Theyíve lost and/or had wounded over 350,000 Russian soldiers. Theyíve made it into a position where theyíve been subjected to great sanctions across the board. And weíre contemplating what else could be done.

But the -- the -- what we were talking about at the time there were no actions being taken against Russia. And that -- look at all thatís transpired since then.

QUESTION: Can you say whether youíre --

QUESTION: How do you think this --

QUESTION: -- whether youíre looking at increasing sanctions on Russia right now?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Weíre looking at a whole number of options. Thatís all Iíll say right now.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can do to get ammunition to the Ukrainians without the supplemental from Congress?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, but itís about time they step up -- donít you think? -- instead of going on a two-week vacation. Two weeks theyíre walking away. Two weeks! What are they thinking? My God, this is bizarre.

And itís just reinforcing all the concern and -- and almost -- I wonít say ďpanic,Ē but real concern about the United States being a reliable ally. This is outrageous.

QUESTION: Are you more confident now that youíll get the Ukraine aid given whatís happened today?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I hope to God it helps. But I mean, the idea we need anything more to get the Ukraine aid -- I mean, -- I mean, this is --
 in light of a former presidentís statement that -- saying Russia, if --
 if they havenít paid their dues to us, go get them.

Come on. What are these guys doing? What are they doing?

QUESTION: Sir, how concerned are you about the anti-satellite capability that Russia is developing? And what is your administration planning to do in response?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: First of all, there is no nuclear threat to the people of America or anywhere else in the world with what Russia is doing at the moment. Number one.

Number two, anything that theyíre doing and/or they will do relates to satellites and space and damaging those satellites, potentially.

Number three, I -- there is no evidence that they have made a decision to go forward with doing anything in space either. So, what we found out: There was a capacity to launch a system into space that could theoretically do something that was damaging. Hadnít happened yet. And my expect -- I -- my hope is it will not.

QUESTION: Mr. President, just quickly --

AIDE: Thank you all. Thank you.


QUESTION: Quickly, Mr. President, have --

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Iíll -- Iíll take one more.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Switching gears for a moment. Have the Israelis presented a credible evacuation plan for the nearly 1.5 million displaced Palestinians sheltering in Rafah? And what would the consequences be for Israel if they move ahead with a full-scale ground invasion without clear measures to protect civilians there?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, first of all, Iíve had extensive conversations with the Prime Minister of Israel over the last several days -- almost an hour each. And Iíve made the case -- and I feel very strongly about it -- that there has to be a -- a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out, to get the hostages out. And that is underway. Iím still hopeful that that can be done.

And in the meantime, I donít anticipate -- Iím hoping that that you --
 that the Israelis will not make any massive land invasion in the meantime. So, itís my expectation thatís not going to happen.

There has to be a ceasefire temporarily to get those hostages -- and, by the way, there are -- weíre in a situation where there are American hostages, American citizens that are being held hostage. Itís not just --
 not just Israelis; itís American hostages as well.

And, you know, my hope and expectation is that weíll get this hostage deal. Weíll bring the Americans home. And the deal is been negotiated now, and weíre going to see where it takes us.


QUESTION: An FBI -- an FBI informant -- an FBI informant at the center of the impeachment inquiry into you has been indicted for allegedly lying. Your reaction to that, and should the inquiry be dropped?

PRESIDENT BIDEN: He is lying, and it should be dropped. And itís just been a -- itís been an outrageous effort from the beginning. What he did --


PRESIDENT BIDEN: No, Iím serious.


PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you, all.

See you in Ohio.

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