Biden says he warned Putin of 'devastating' consequences if Navalny dies

Biden says he warned Putin of 'devastating' consequences if Navalny dies
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President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE on Wednesday warned Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDemocrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE that Moscow would face "devastating" consequences if dissident Alexey Navalny were to die in prison.

"I made it clear to him that I believed the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia," Biden said in a press conference following a three-hour meeting with Putin.

Biden said he rationalized his warning to Putin by explaining that Russia would have difficulty securing foreign investors or finding reliable global partners if Moscow were to violate international norms and allow an outspoken critic of Putin to die in prison.

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Biden made clear that human rights was a cornerstone issue of Wednesday's summit in Switzerland. In addition to Navalny, the president said he broached the issue of detained Americans Paul Whelan, Trevor Reed and Michael Calvey.

"No president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view," Biden said. "So human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him."

Putin, asked about Navalny at his own press conference in Geneva, would not mention the activist by name and avoided directly addressing his case. Instead, he pointed to discord in the United States, specifically the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The Russian president compared Navalny and pro-Democracy protests to the pro-Trump mob that overwhelmed Capitol Police, beating many, and forced the evacuation of the House and Senate during the largely ceremonial counting of the Electoral College vote in the presidential election.

Putin argued that people in the mob, many of whom are facing charges for violent crimes, are political prisoners.

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"As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands,” Putin said, according to an interpreter. "Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences of up to 28, maybe even 25 years. They’re being called domestic terrorists."

Navalny, 45, is a blogger and activist who is an outspoken critic of Putin's government.

He was poisoned last year using a nerve agent when flying back to Moscow. Though he survived, he was arrested in January when he returned to Russia. An ensuing hunger strike led to concerns about his health and the possibility that he could die in prison.