Navalny dies in prison

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, has died in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. That's according to Russia’s prison agency. He was 47.



February 16, 2024 - 2:57 PM

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2018. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. Photo by AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File

(AP) — Alexei Navalny, who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests as President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, died Friday in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence, Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47.

The stunning news — less than a month before an election that will give Putin another six years in power — brought renewed criticism and outrage directed at the Kremlin leader who has cracked down on all opposition at home.

People laid flowers at monuments to victims of Soviet-era political repressions in Moscow and other cities across Russia, but there was no immediate indication that Navalny’s death would spark large protests, given that the opposition is already fractured and beleaguered and the death will only deal another heavy blow.

Navalny felt unwell after a walk Friday, according to the Federal Penitentiary Service, and lost consciousness. An ambulance arrived, but he could not be revived. The service said the cause of death was “being established.”

Navalny had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Since then, he was convicted three times, and reject each case as politically motivated.

After the last verdict, Navalny said he understood that he was “serving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”

Just hours after his death was reported, Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, took the stage at a security conference in Germany where many world leaders had gathered — and said she considered canceling her appearance.

“But then I thought what Alexei would do in my place. And I’m sure he would be here,” she said, while noting that she was not sure if she could believe the news coming from official Russian sources.

“But if this is true, I want Putin and everyone around Putin, Putin’s friends, his government to know that they will bear responsibility for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband. And this day will come very soon.”

Praise for Navalny’s bravery poured in from Western leaders and others who have opposed Putin’s rule. The opposition leader’s health has deteriorated recently and the cause of death may never be known, but many world leaders said they held Russian authorities ultimately responsible for his death — particularly in light of the deaths of many Kremlin’s opponents.

If confirmed, “his death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while at the conference in Germany.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Navalny “has probably now paid for this courage with his life.”

Standing at Scholz’s side, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — whose country is fending off Russian invasion — said: “Putin doesn’t care who dies in order for him to hold onto his position.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was informed of Navalny’s death, but the opposition leader’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the team had no confirmation yet.

Russia’s state Channel One television interrupted its newscast to announce the death, and other state-controlled channels also carried terse reports but then continued on with their news broadcasts.

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