1708085733 Russian opponent Alexei Navalni dies in prison International

Russian opponent Alexei Navalni dies in prison | International

Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, 47, died in prison this Friday, according to the Russian state agency RIA Novosti. The well-known dissident felt unwell after a walk and lost consciousness almost immediately afterwards, according to the agency, citing the department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. According to a statement from this correctional facility, doctors arrived quickly and “an ambulance was called.” “All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, but they failed.” The emergency services confirmed the death of the prisoner. “The causes of death are currently being determined,” the statement continued. Navalny, Russia's most prominent dissident politician and tireless Kremlin critic who led investigative campaigns to expose corruption in the Putin era, has been behind bars since January 2021.

In December, the dissident's collaborators raised the alarm when they lost contact with Navalni for nearly three weeks, during which his whereabouts were unknown. On the 25th, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmish reported that he had been transferred to the IK-3 penal colony in Jarp in the Yamal-Nenets region, about 1,900 kilometers northeast of Moscow and about 60 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, where temperatures of measured several tens of degrees below zero. Known as the Arctic Wolf Colony, this prison is considered one of the harshest in Russia and is intended for prisoners convicted of serious crimes. The prison was founded in the 1960s as part of the Soviet forced labor camp Gulag system.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov referred to Navalny's death a few minutes after learning about it. “The Prison Service handles all checks. There is no need to give instructions [comprobar] This is because there are a number of rules regarding this,” he explained. Regarding the possibility that the opponent died of a blood clot, which some Russian media have pointed out, Peskov stated that “doctors will clarify the issue.”

Yarmish announced this Friday that the activist's lawyers were already on their way to the Yamal Nenets prison. “We still have no confirmation of his death,” he said. In early 2023, a group of more than 170 doctors signed a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing concern for the prisoner's health. “The conditions of detention and the physical appearance of Alexei Navalny cause us great concern for his life and health,” the letter said. His lawyers reported that the activist received no medication and only walked outside his cell for an hour and a half every day.

Russian opponent Alexei Navalny addresses demonstrators during a protest against Putin on Pushkin Square in Moscow in 2012. Russian opponent Alexei Navalny addresses demonstrators during a protest against Putin on Pushkin Square in Moscow in 2012. Konstantin Zavrazhin (Getty Images)

Navalny, born in Butyn in the Moscow region, was the highest-ranking leader of the Russian opposition. He was sentenced in March 2022 to nine years in a “strict regime penal colony” in a fraud case that his supporters claim was fabricated by the Putin regime. Prosecutors accused him of stealing around 4.36 million euros in donations to his organizations that have since been banned by the Russian government, including his anti-corruption foundation Platform Against Corruption (FBK).

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On August 4, he received another 19-year prison sentence for supporting extremism. The sentence was added to the previous one and added another 2.5 years in 2021 for diverting money in the so-called Kirovles case from 2013, which was fabricated to keep Navalny away from the political sphere for an even longer period. Furthermore, the declaration of his political movement as “extremist” has increased his political isolation.

The opposition politician was arrested immediately after landing in Moscow in January 2021 for violating probation conditions. According to Western intelligence services, Navalny returned after several weeks in hospital in Germany, where he fell into a coma after being poisoned. This was an incident in which Kremlin involvement was suspected. Despite his health, the Russian judiciary considered that the opponent had to respect the conditions of his conditional release in a case that the European Court of Human Rights had deemed an “arbitrary trial.”

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