Elon Musk’s X blames ‘error’ for suspension of account of Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia days after his death

The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has said an “error” led it to suspend the account of Alexei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, which caused confusion given Elon Musk’s protestations about free speech.

The company said it was “mistakenly flagged” as breaking the site’s rules.

Despite regularly posting on his X site, Mr Musk has yet to mention Mr Navalny’s death.

Mr Navalny, who was the chief domestic political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died at the remote jail where he was being held on Friday, according to the country’s federal penitentiary service.

The 47-year-old’s death sparked global outrage. He was being held in a jail about 65 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, having been convicted on fraud and extremism charges he’d characterised as political retribution.

He had previously led campaigns against corruption in Russia, where Putin’s regime routinely imprisons and, human rights groups allege, kills dissenters.

“Navalny felt bad after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness,” the penitentiary service claimed in a statement on Friday.

“Medical staff arrived immediately and an ambulance team was called. Resuscitation measures were carried out which did not yield positive results.

“Paramedics confirmed the death of the convict. The causes of death are being established.”

Twitter suspension

Ms Navalnaya, launching her X account on Monday, accused Putin of murdering her husband and vowed to continue his work resisting the authoritarian regime.

“Three days ago, Vladimir Putin killed my husband, Alexei Navalny,” she said.

“Putin killed the father of my children. Putin took away the most precious I had in my life – my most dear and the most loved man.

“Putin wanted to kill our hopes, our freedom, our future. To destroy and nullify it.

“My husband couldn’t be broken, and that’s exactly why Putin killed him.”

Ms Navalnaya hadn’t seen her husband for two years before his death, as he was behind bars and she was staying outside Russia with their two children Dasha, 22 and Zahar, 15.

On Tuesday night, Australian time, Ms Navalnaya’s newly created account on X appeared to have been suspended.

Upon trying to load her page, users were met with the message: “Account suspended. X suspends accounts which violate X rules.”

It was not clear which rules Ms Navalnaya had, allegedly, violated. But after a swift backlash from other users, her account was restored.

X owner Elon Musk, who has characterised himself as a supporter of free speech and opponent of censorship, has yet to comment or shed light on her apparent suspension.

Later on Tuesday, US time, X put out a statement that said site protections against manipulation had “mistakenly flagged” Ms Navalnaya’s account which was then automatically suspended.

“We unsuspended the account as soon as we became aware of the error, and will be updating the defence,” a post by X stated.

Musk quiet on Navalny

While Mr Musk is extremely active on the platform, and frequently expresses political opinions, he has yet to make any comment on Mr Navalny’s death.

At the time of writing his most recent post involving Russia expressed support for the idea that Ukraine, which Putin invaded in February of 2022, has already “lost” the war and should seek peace – therefore conceding the territory it has already lost.

“It is time for a ceasefire and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine has lost this war and nothing will change that,” read the post of a user to whom Mr Musk replied.

“Ukraine doesn’t have enough men to win. $US60 billion for Ukraine won’t change the facts. Russia is going to keep Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine.”

“Yes. It is just a question of how many die before that reality is accepted,” Mr Musk said in response to the user.

“A peace deal should have been done a year ago. Since then, thousands of boys have died for nothing and Ukraine’s position grows weaker by the day.”

‘Putin will be held accountable’

Speaking shortly after her husband’s death was confirmed on Friday, during an appearance at the Munich Security Conference, Ms Navalnaya fought back tears over the “horrible news”.

“I want Putin and everyone around him to know that they will be held accountable for everything they did to our country, to my family, and to my husband. And this day will come very soon,” she said.

“I am asking everyone who is here to unite and help punish the Russian regime.”

She left the stage to a standing ovation.

Her mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, expressed disbelief at Mr Navalny’s sudden death, saying she had seen him on Monday in prison and he had seemed “healthy and happy”.

“I don’t want to hear any condolences. We saw him in prison on (Monday), in a meeting. He was alive, healthy and happy,” she said.

In 2020, Mr Navalny fell into a coma, having allegedly been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent by Russia’s FSB. He was treated in Germany, and after recovering, returned to Russia in early 2021, where he was promptly arrested.

He went missing during his stint in a Russian gulag last year – different from the one where he died – leading his supporters to warn he could be executed.

At the time, the head of his FBK party, Maria Pevchikh, said she was “worried for his life”.

“He’s in the hands of the very same people who tried to kill him before,” she said.

“If they once got an authorisation to murder Navalny, do they have another one now, or is the last one still valid? Navalny’s life is constantly at a high risk.”

Mr Navalny addressed a Russian judge from his prison the day before his death. Observers noted that he did not look unwell.

World reacts with fury

Western leaders led an outraged reaction to Mr Navalny’s death, with several accusing Putin’s regimen of “murdering” him.

US President Joe Biden was clear about who bore the blame.

“The Russian authorities will tell their story. But remember, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Mr Biden said.

He urged Congress to pass a multi-billion dollar aid package for Ukraine that will allow it be receive more arms – the package Mr Musk was criticising in his aforementioned post.

The Republican-led Congress has held up the spending bill for months, most recently – it’s been reported – because US presidential candidate Donald Trump is lukewarm on it.

“The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten,” Mr Biden said on Friday.

“We have to help now.”

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