Alexei Navalny, Russian Opposition Leader, Dies in Arctic Circle Prison

Photo Credit: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP / Getty Images

Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader and a staunch critic of current President Vladimir Putin, has died in prison, at the age of 47. His passing was announced by the federal prison service, which wrote in a statement that Navalny lost consciousness while returning from a walk and died shortly after. Several foreign leaders have spoken out about the news, placing the blame solely on Putin and his government.

Two police officers detaining Alexei Navalny
Police officers detain one of the protest movement leaders, Alexei Navalny, at Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square, 2012. (Photo Credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP / Getty Images)

As aforementioned, Navalny’s death was announced by Russia’s federal prison service, which said his passing occurred at a high-security prison in Yamal, located near the Arctic Circle.

“On February 16, 2024, in Penal Colony No. 3, the convict Alexei Navalny felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness, according to representatives of the department,” the statement read. “Medical personnel from the institution arrived promptly, and an ambulance crew was called.

“All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, but unfortunately, they did not yield positive results. The emergency medical team pronounced the convict dead. The cause of death is being investigated,” it concluded.

According to Putin‘s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president has been informed about Navalny’s death.

Alexei Navalny waving through bars
Alexei Navalny is seen via video link from the IK-3 penal colony above the Arctic Circle during a hearing regarding his complaint about restrictions placed on which books and reading material he can access in prison, at the Supreme Court in Moscow, Russia, 2024. (Photo Credit: VERA SAVINA / AFP / Getty Images)

Alexei Navalny’s mother, Liudmila Navalnaya, shot back at the official report, writing on Facebook, “I don’t want to hear any condolences. We saw our son in the colony on February 12, we had a visit. He was alive, healthy, and cheerful.”

The opposition leader’s death comes as his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, is in Munich, Germany for a security conference. According to reports, in the days leading up to his death, Navalny appeared to be in good spirits and health. Russian news outlet SOTA even published a video of a court hearing on February 15, in which he could be seen laughing and joking that he was beginning to run low on spending money in prison.

Alexei Navalny speaking into a microphone
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny delivers a speech during a meeting with his supporters in Moscow, Russia, 2017. (Photo Credit: VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP / Getty Images)

Given the tensions between Navalny and Putin, several government officials across Europe and the West have made statements alleging the opposition leader’s death was not natural and was, instead, caused by the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “it’s obvious” that Putin killed Navalny, while French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “Alexei Navalny paid with his life for his resistance to a system of oppression.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that the United States was still trying to confirm Navalny’s death, but that the country holds Russia responsible, saying at the security conference in Munich, “If confirmed, this would be a further sign of Putin’s brutality. Whatever story they tell, let us be clear: Russia is responsible, and we’ll have more to say on this later.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added in a separate statement that Navalny’s death “only underscores the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this.”

UK Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister David Cameron echoed these sentiments, writing on X, “Navalny fought bravely against corruption. Putin’s Russia fabricated charges against him, poisoned him, sent him to an Arctic penal colony & now he has tragically died. Putin should be accountable for what has happened – no one should doubt the dreadful nature of his regime.”

Hitting back at these accusations, Maria Zakharova, the director of the Information and Press Department of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said, “The immediate reaction of NATO leaders to Navalny’s death in the form of direct accusations against Russia is self-exposing. There is still no forensic examination, yet Western conclusions are already prepared.”

Flowers, paper and a photo of Alexei Navalny leaned up against a metal gate
An image of Alexei Navalny alongside floral tributes placed close to the Russian Embassy in London, United Kingdom following news the jailed Russian opposition leader has died, 2024. (Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images)

As aforementioned, Navalny was one of the most prominent opposition leaders in Russia. Seen as a threat to Putin’s regime, he often spoke out about the corruption of government officials, going so far as to stage protests and run for office himself.

In 2013, he was convicted of embezzlement, a charge he called politically motivated, and was sentenced to five years in prison. This was later turned into a suspended sentence, meaning he was free to run for the mayor of Moscow. While unsuccessful, he came in second. His popularity only continued to grow following the shooting death of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in 2015.

In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which sent him into a two-week coma. In what he and his supporters say was a state-sponsored murder attempt, he underwent treatment in Germany, before returning to Russia in 2021. He was immediately detained at Sheremetyevo Airport, in Moscow, and had been imprisoned ever since.

He often spoke out about being denied medical care and suffering months of solitary confinement at a time.

At the time of his death, Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism. He was transferred to Penal Colony No. 3 in December 2023, without his family being informed. It was weeks before they found out where he was.

Two Russian police officers leading Alexei Navalny, who is handcuffed, through a door
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is escorted out of a police station in Khimki, Russia, outside Moscow, following the court ruling that ordered him jailed for 30 days, 2021. (Photo Credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP / Getty Images)

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Alexei Navalny is survived by his wife, son and daughter. Before his arrest, he told his supporters that, should he were ever killed, they “must not give up.”

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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