STRASBOURG: The European Parliament said on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin bore the “criminal and political responsibility” for opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death and should be held to account.

Navalny, one of Putin’s fiercest critics, died in prison on February 16 in unclear circumstances but EU leaders have blamed the Russian president.

“The Russian government and Vladimir Putin personally bear criminal and political responsibility for the death of their most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny,“ the parliament said in a resolution passed with 506 votes in the 705-seat assembly.

Putin “should be held accountable”, it said.

Only nine lawmakers voted against the resolution.

The lawmakers also called for an “independent and transparent international investigation” into the circumstances of Navalny’s death.

In addition, the parliament asked the EU’s 27 members states to “intensify” support for Russian political prisoners and continue backing the democratic opposition in Russia.

Navalny’s funeral will be held on Friday in a Moscow church.

His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, told the European Parliament on Wednesday that she feared the event could be marred by disruption and arrests.

The opposition leader shot to prominence through his campaigning against corruption, which he said was rampant at the top of Putin’s administration.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for a poisoning attack suffered while campaigning against Putin.

He was awarded the EU’s top rights honour, the Sakharov Prize, later that year.

Russian authorities said Navalny died of “natural causes” after he lost consciousness following a walk in his Arctic prison colony.

That claim has been dismissed by Navalny’s family, supporters and Western officials. -AFP

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