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EDITORIAL | Why No Outrage Over Navalny Death from Kishida?

If the international community perceives Japan as pandering to Russia by its silence on the Alexei Navalny death, then our national interests will suffer harm.



A woman in Moscow mourns the death of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny by lighting a candle in his memory. (© Reuters via Kyodo)

We have yet to hear either Prime Minister Fumio Kishida or Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa issue a clear statement regarding the sudden death of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader. Navalny was a symbol of "anti-Putin" sentiment in his homeland. 

Even in the Diet, there have been no moves to pass a resolution condemning his death. Or at least seeking clarification of what really happened.

We cannot help but feel dismayed by the callousness our political leaders have shown regarding the matter. This is not a fitting image for Japanese politicians aspiring to be recognized as esteemed members of the international community. They must do more if they say they respect liberty and democracy. 

US President Joe Biden speaks with Yulia Navalnaya and Dasha Navalnaya, the wife and daughter of Alexei Navalny. February 22, 2024. (©The White House/Handout via REUTERS)

Other World Leaders React

United States President Joe Biden commented on Navalny's death at an Arctic prison camp. He said, "There is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something that [Vladimir] Putin and his thugs did." 

Likewise, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posted a message on X (formerly Twitter). He stated, "Navalny stood up for democracy and freedom in Russia – and apparently paid for his courage with his life." 

Why then haven't Kishida or Kamikawa commented to reporters on Navalny's death? 

Furthermore, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi was asked about Navalny's death at a regularly scheduled press conference. In response, he simply said, "I will refrain from commenting since we don't have any definitive information." He would only add, "The matter is of grave interest to us and we will continue to closely monitor the situation." 

However, it is exactly the Kremlin's failure to provide concrete information itself that is the problem. Don't our leaders realize that? 


Even if Prime Minister Kishida was not in a position to quickly release a message to the international community, something should have been done. Have the National Security Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which support the Prime Minister and foreign minister, been doing anything about Navalny's death? 

People attend a vigil after the death of Alexei Navalny, outside the Russian consulate in New York City on February 16, 2024. (©REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

G7 Foreign Ministers React

Foreign ministers from the G7 countries huddled in Munich, Germany, recently. As chairman of the group, Italy's Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani issued a statement, saying the G7 foreign ministers shared feelings of "outrage" concerning Navalny's death." They also called on the Russian government to fully clarify the circumstances of his death. Moreover, they demanded Russia "stop its unacceptable persecution of political dissent."

Foreign Minister Kamikawa was unable to attend the meeting in Munich. Instead, she was attending the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction in Tokyo. Therefore, a deputy foreign minister stood in for her. 

Even if that was unavoidable, it is no excuse for failing to issue a statement about Navalny's sudden death. 

Police officers detain a woman during a gathering in memory of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny near the Wall of Grief monument to the victims of political repressions in Moscow on February 17, 2024. (©REUTERS/Stringer)

Taking Off the Domestic Blinders

If the international community perceives Japan as pandering to Russia, our national interests will suffer harm.

The Diet and various political parties must keep the larger world picture in mind. They are too preoccupied with the issue of non-disclosure of income raised from parties involving some members of some factions within the Liberal-Democratic Party

Why not pass a resolution in the Diet honoring the memory of Alexei Navalny and demand the truth about his sudden death? Until the end, he fought for freedom and democracy.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sakei Shimbun


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