April 14, 2024

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Putin critic Alexei Navalny, 47, has died in an Arctic Circle prison

Putin critic Alexei Navalny, 47, has died in an Arctic Circle prison

Image source, Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

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Alexei Navalny has been Russia's most prominent opposition leader of late

Alexei Navalny, Russia's most important opposition leader over the past decade, died in an Arctic Circle prison, the prison service said.

Navalny, seen as President Vladimir Putin's harshest critic, was serving a 19-year prison sentence on charges widely considered politically motivated.

He was transferred to one of Russia's toughest penal prisons late last year.

The prison service in the Yamalo-Nenets region said Navalny “felt unwell” after the walk on Friday.

She said in a statement that he “lost consciousness almost immediately,” adding that an emergency medical team was immediately called and tried to revive him, but to no avail.

He added, “Emergency doctors declared the prisoner dead. The cause of death is currently being determined.”

Navalny (47 years old) was last seen just one day ago, looking good and laughing during the court session via video link.

His lawyer Leonid Solovyov told Russian media he would not comment yet, although Leonid Volkov, Navalny's close aide, wrote on X: “Russian authorities are publishing a confession that they killed Alexei Navalny in prison. We have no way to confirm or prove this.” this is not true.”

Image source, @teamnavalny

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Alexei Navalny was seen on Thursday during the court session via video link

Within minutes of the prison service announcing Navalny's death, the international community praised the courage of Vladimir Putin's biggest domestic opponent.

France said that he paid with his life for resisting Russian “repression,” while the Norwegian Foreign Minister said that the Russian authorities bear great responsibility for his death.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Navalny's death was “reported to the president,” who was visiting Chelyabinsk.

Most of the Russian president's critics fled Russia, but Alexei Navalny returned in January 2021, after months of medical treatment. In August 2020, he was poisoned at the end of a trip to Siberia with the Novichok nerve agent.

His team succeeded in transporting him by plane to Germany to receive specialized treatment, and upon his return to Moscow he was immediately detained. He would never leave prison again for the next 37 months.

Navalny, 47, has long sought to challenge Vladimir Putin at the ballot box, but has been barred from running in the 2018 presidential election. Next month, the Russian leader will stand unchallenged in the face of any real opposition.

Anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin has been barred from running in the election due to supposed irregularities in thousands of signatures submitted in support of his candidacy.

Navalny, whose opposition began as an anti-corruption campaign, is the latest in a string of prominent Russian figures to die while challenging Vladimir Putin's rule.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on a Moscow bridge a stone's throw from the Kremlin in 2015, and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in August 2023 in an unprovoked plane crash weeks after leading his mercenaries in an armed rebellion.

Video explanation,

Watch: Alexei Navalny jokes in one of his recent appearances from a penal colony in the Arctic

However, Navalny has repeatedly ridiculed his friends' concerns about his health. He was transferred from a penal colony east of Moscow in December, and was not seen for weeks until he resurfaced at a penal colony in the Arctic town of Kharp.

Navalny said he was taken on a 20-day trip around Russia, telling reporters during a video court appearance that his conditions were “much better” than in his former penal colony in Vladimir.

However, he was repeatedly punished in his prisons with solitary confinement. His spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said last month that he had spent more than 280 days in isolation.

Navalny was not scheduled to leave prison until his seventies, due to his latest conviction for extremism last August. This is his third prison sentence, and his supporters accused the Kremlin of trying to silence him forever.

Russian human rights activist and journalist Eva Merkacheva said on Friday that he had been placed in solitary confinement at least 27 times, saying he “could not have played a role” in his death.

She added that in such harsh conditions, doctors knew that such punishment was very harmful to the human body, so by law no one could be given more than 15 days in isolation.

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