2024 Election

Russia Claims Opposition Leader Died From ‘sudden death syndrome’ in Prison, Body Missing

Alexei Navalny died from ‘sudden death syndrome’ after collapsing on Friday, Russian investigators are alleged to have told the opposition leader’s mother as she visited the brutal IK-3 Polar Wolf penal colony where he was being held this morning.

Lyudmila Navalnaya was seen today traveling to the colony in northern Russia, where she was told her son died after returning from a walk at 14:17 local time on Friday.

Navalny’s allies say they were denied the opportunity to see the body, which would remain with the authorities until an investigation was complete.

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Navalny’s lawyer, who arrived in the town of Salekhard with Navalny’s mother on Saturday, was allegedly told by the prison that the body was being held in the morgue.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia Navalnaya in September 2020

A contact at the Salekhard morgue later denied the body was there – leaving yet more question marks around the shock death of one of Putin’s most fierce critics.

‘It’s obvious that the killers want to cover their tracks and are therefore not handing over Alexei’s body, hiding it even from his mother,’ his team said in a post on Telegram.

The shock death of Putin’s most fierce critic has sparked a wave of vigils and protests across Russia, prompting police to crack down with force and make 15 arrests in Moscow alone.

Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was reported to have died in prison on Friday, according to Russia‘s prison agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles on Friday as he visits a forge in Chelyabinsk, Russia

The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny, 47, felt unwell after a walk and ‘almost immediately lost consciousness’. Paramedics reportedly came to try to rehabilitate him without success.

Navalny, who was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of ‘extremism’, had only recently been moved from his former prison in the Vladimir region of central Russia to a grisly ‘special regime’ penal colony above the Arctic Circle.

His allies, a brave minority in Russia fighting corruption, said at the time they feared for his life after he ‘disappeared’ in December to travel to the remote region notorious for its long and severe winters – just months before the closely-watched Russian presidential elections next month.

People lay flowers and light candles near the memorial to political prisoners in St. Petersburg, Russia, 17 February 2024

Navalny was last seen via video link during a court hearing on Thursday.

Dressed in black prison uniform, he appeared to be in good spirits – his trademark humour back on show.

‘Your Honour, I will send you my personal account number so that you can use your huge salary as a federal judge to ”warm up” my personal account, because I am running out of money,’ he said.

State media reported he raised no health complaints during the session.

Tributes are laid as people demonstrate outside the Russian embassy, following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Copenhagen, Denmark, February 17, 2024

His mother said she had seen her son in the prison colony on Monday. At the time, she said: ‘He was alive, healthy, cheerful.’

One of Navalny’s lawyers, Leonid Solovyov, told the independent Novaya Gazeta paper that the Kremlin critic was ‘normal’ when a lawyer saw him on Wednesday.

But the Federal Prison Service announced his death in a statement yesterday, saying that Navalny felt unwell after a walk and lost consciousness. An ambulance arrived to try to save him, to no avail.

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The sudden death of the former Anti-Corruption Foundation leader has provoked a strong response from supporters as far afield as Japan, Poland, Finland, Mumbai and San Francisco.

A man lays flowers to the monument to the victims of political repressions for late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on February 17, 2024

In several Russian cities, authorities have clamped down on protests and vigils, pictured dragging supporters away from makeshift memorials. Masked police were seen taking away mourners at a monument for victims of Soviet repression in Moscow – with some 177 people detained in Russia so far.

Hundreds of flowers and dozens of candles could be seen at the monument for victims of Soviet repression in Moscow and more flowers could be seen left in the snow on nearby pavements.

Riot police officers are seen deployed at the monument to the victims of political repressions in St. Petersburg on February 17, 2024

‘Alexei Navalny’s death is the worst thing that could happen to Russia,’ read a note left among the flowers and Navalny photos by the monument.

Authorities in the Russian capital said Friday they were aware of calls online ‘to take part in a mass rally in the centre of Moscow’ and warned people against attending.

‘We will not forget, we will not forgive. Those responsible will be punished!’ the note said.

Police officers were also seen standing near a similar monument to political prisoners in St. Petersburg today.

Protests are illegal in Russia under strict anti-dissent laws, and authorities have clamped down particularly harshly on rallies in support of Navalny.

Earlier today, Volodymyr Zelensky issued a chilling warning to critics of Putin’s regime at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

‘Putin kills whoever he wants,’ the Ukrainian President said this morning. ‘Be it an opposition leader or anyone else who appears as a target to him. He maintains power through corruption and violence.’

‘Putin has murdered another opposition leader,’ Zelensky said outright. The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death.

Zelensky spoke on the need to repel Putin’s advances east and depose him – as Russia prepares for its closely-watched presidential elections next month.

He warned Saturday that his country’s battle to repel Russian troops was being held back by a lack of long-range weapons and artillery shells.

‘Keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficits of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,’ he told the Munich Security Conference.

‘We have ruined the myth that Russian weapons are better than Western ones – that is why for the first time in Russian history Putin bowed to Iran and North Korea for help,’ he said.

‘Russia has only one specific military advantage at this time – namely the complete devaluation of human life. Constant Russian meat assaults prove this. International tolerance of the lack of rule of law in Russia since 1991 and Putin’s policy of controlled poverty has led to the effect that human life is worthless for Russian state.

Speaking ahead of the two-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky said: ‘[Putin] has just yesterday he tried to send us all a clear message as the Munich Security Conference opened, Putin murdered another opposition leader.

‘So please, let’s not fear Putin’s defeat and the destruction of his regime. Let’s instead work together to destroy what he stands for. It is his fate to lose, not the fate of the rules based world order to vanish.’

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He told attendees: ‘Do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourselves why Putin is still able to continue it.’

He went on: ‘Putin now openly justifies Hitler absolving him of responsibility of World War II and he makes the genocide of our people just the normal part of policy.’

‘After the murder of Alexei Navalny it is absolute to pursue Putin as the legitimate head of the Russian state. He is a thug who maintains power through corruption and violence

‘Putin only has two options ahead, to be in the dock in the Hague or to be killed by one of his accomplices who are now killing for him.’

Zelensky is not alone in accusing Russia of slaying the former lawyer and politician.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Saturday said Navalny’s ‘heroic opposition to Putin’s repressive and unjust regime inspired the world’.

‘We hold the Russian Government solely responsible for his treatment and death in prison,’ Wong said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

US President Joe Biden was equally blunt, saying: ‘Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death’.

Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov added: ‘Alexei Navalny was tortured and tormented for three years… Murder was added to Alexei Navalny’s sentence’.

Russian investigative reporter Maria Pevchikh wrote on X: ‘Navalny was killed. It’s not very clear how to live further, but we will definitely come up with something together.

‘Alexey will live forever in millions of hearts, in our thoughts and memories. Otherwise, why are we needed?

‘The murderers will be punished. Inevitably. We won’t forgive anyone.’

Lord David Cameron signalled that there would be ‘consequences’ in the wake of the death of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Speaking to broadcasters at the Munich Security Conference, the Foreign Secretary said: ‘Reflecting overnight makes you think what an incredibly brave man this was. His life revealed so much about the true nature of (Vladimir) Putin’s ghastly regime. And his death has revealed that all over again.

‘There should be consequences. When appalling human rights outrages like this take place, what we do is we look at whether there are individual people that are responsible and whether there are individual measures and actions we can take. We don’t announce them in advance, so I can’t say anymore than that. But that is what we will be looking at.

‘Of course we have already summoned the ambassador and made clear our views about this dreadful event and the way this person was treated.’

He said he would be meeting with G7 foreign ministers at the German gathering: ‘I am clear that we will be taking action and I would urge others do to the same.’

The Kremlin said the West’s reaction was unacceptable and ‘absolutely rabid’. Putin has yet to comment on Navalny’s death.

Still, Navalny’s vision for change in Russia will be kept alive by his team, his ally and spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said in an interview.

‘We lost our leader, but we didn’t lose our ideas and our beliefs’, Yarmysh told Reuters via Zoom, speaking from an undisclosed location.

She said the team holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for what she called Navalny’s murder.

She did not provide evidence for this but pointed to an incident in 2020 when Navalny survived what Western doctors said was a nerve agent poisoning attempt on his life.

Putin denied at the time that the Russian state had tried to kill Navalny, saying it would have ‘finished the job’ if it had really wanted to eliminate him.

‘We knew that there was a risk, Alexei knew it as well. And yesterday they murdered him as they planned to do it three years ago’, said Yarmysh.

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Ella Ford is a mother of two, a Christian conservative writer with degrees in American History, Social and Behavioral Science and Liberal Studies, based in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.


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