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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison

Louise Greenwood

 , Updated 01:58, 17-Feb-2024

Alexei Navalny, Russia's highest-profile opposition figure, has died in jail after apparently falling ill. 

Navalny was serving a 30-year term on charges of supporting and fund-raising for extremist groups. 

He had previously been poisoned in an assassination attempt in 2020, while campaigning in Siberia ahead of regional elections. Tests show he had been exposed to a lethal nerve agent. However he insisted on returning to Russia from Berlin, where he underwent life-saving treatment. 


'Felt ill' 

In a statement the Russian prison service said Navalny "felt ill" on Friday after taking a walk at the prison complex in Russia's Arctic region where he had been held since early December.

"The medical staff of the institution arrived immediately, and an ambulance team was called. All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, which did not yield positive results," the prison authorities said.

Flowers and a candle are placed next to a portrait of Navalny in Paris, France. /Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Flowers and a candle are placed next to a portrait of Navalny in Paris, France. /Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Flowers and a candle are placed next to a portrait of Navalny in Paris, France. /Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

The international condemnation was swift, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Russia was "responsible for this." Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the UK's Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said "we should hold Putin accountable" for Navalny's death. France's foreign minister Stephane Sejourne said Navalny "paid with his life for his resistance to a system of oppression." 


'Polar Wolf' jail 

Navalny's whereabouts were unknown for two weeks late last year. He re-appeared at the so-called "Polar Wolf" jail complex in Russia's Arctic Circle, considered to be one of the country's toughest prisons. 

His lawyer, who visited him last week, reported him to be "fine." He was last seen on a video link to a Moscow court on Thursday in apparent good health, and joking with the judge to send him some money from his "huge salary", as he himself was "running out."


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Addressing the Munich conference, his widow Yulia fought back tears as she appealed to the delegates to join the fight against "this horrific regime." Yulia Navalny added "I want Putin, all his entourage and friends to know they will be held accountable for what they have done to our country, my family and to my husband… that day will come soon."


Forensic tests 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a visit to a machine building plant in the central Chelyabinsk region, did not comment on Navalny's death, although the Kremlin says he has been informed. 

Denying claims surrounding Navalny's death, Russia's foreign ministry has called for the results of the forensic medical examination to be released before any accusations are made. 

Russia's nobel laureate winner Dmitry Muratov said conditions at the jail in the Siberian town of Kharp almost certainly contributed to his demise.  

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison

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Source(s): Reuters
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