Putin critic Alexei Navalny has died in the Arctic Circle

Putin critic Alexei Navalny has died in the Arctic Circle prison

February 16, 2024, 11:31 GMT

Updated 41 minutes ago

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Alexei Navalny was Russia's most prominent opposition leader in recent times

Russia's most prominent opposition leader of the last decade, Alexei Navalny, has died in prison in the Arctic Circle, prison authorities said.

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

Late last year he was transferred to an Arctic penal colony considered one of Russia's toughest prisons.

The Yamal-Nenets District prison service said Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk on Friday.

He “lost consciousness almost immediately,” it said in a statement, adding that an emergency medical team was immediately called and tried to resuscitate him, but without success.

“The emergency doctors declared the prisoner dead. The cause of death is being determined.”

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

Just minutes after prison authorities announced Navalny's death, the international community praised the courage of Vladimir Putin's greatest domestic political adversary.

France said he paid with his life for resisting Russian “repression”, while Norway's foreign minister said Russian authorities bore great responsibility for his death.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said only that Navalny's death had been “reported to the president,” who was visiting the city of Chelyabinsk.

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

His team managed to fly him to Germany for specialist treatment and upon his return to Moscow he was immediately taken into custody. He would never leave prison again for the next 37 months.

Navalny had long sought to challenge Vladimir Putin at the ballot box but was barred from running in the 2018 presidential election. Next month, Russia's leader will not be challenged by any significant opposition.

Anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin was barred from running due to alleged irregularities in the thousands of signatures submitted in support of his candidacy.