Last Friday we heard the terrible news that Alexei Navalny had died, in what was truly a tragedy for his family but also for Russian people. Navalny dedicated his life to working to expose corruption – not just in any country but in the brutal system of the Russian state. 

He spent years in jail, was poisoned with Novichok (the same chemical used on the Skripals in the UK in 2018), and endured unimaginable other atrocities when imprisoned in Russia. For me he is definition of Senator John McCain’s description of the “honour you earn and the love you give when we sacrifice to something bigger than self-interest”.

Despite all his sufferings, he showed the most exceptional bravery, not least through his use of humour. Many saw the video that circulated of him joking in court just a few days before his death and calling himself the Russian Father Christmas.

Navalny criticised Putin’s war in Ukraine and continued to fight for a free and open type of politics. Whilst the Russian state saw him as a threat, he stood for the rights of the Russian people.

Alongside Alexei, his wife Yulia Navalnaya is also incredibly courageous. Her speech over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference – just days after her husband’s death – called for a free and peaceful Russia to honour the sacrifice made by her husband, and pledged to continue his work.

But how wrong it is even now that his body has not been returned to them – so that Russian authorities can continue to cover up their murder.

Alexei Navalny was simply remarkable. His death stands as a stark reminder that we cannot take the values that we cherish so much – freedom and democracy – for granted. 

The UK is holding Russia to account for his murder – as I did when Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury poisonings happened when I was Foreign Secretary. 

But to turn John McCain’s words on their head – it is also self-interest. Because Putin is not just murdering people in Russia, he is murdering people in Ukraine. And if he succeeds in Ukraine, somewhere else will be next.