Putin critic Navalny passes away in Arctic Circle jail, as claimed by Russia

Russia’s prominent opposition leader of the past decade, Alexei Navalny, has passed away in a jail located in the Arctic Circle, as confirmed by the prison service. Navalny, known as President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic, was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism widely regarded as politically motivated. He was transferred to one of Russia’s toughest penal colonies late last year.

His wife, Yulia, has made an appeal to the international community to intervene and hold the regime accountable. Ivan Zhdanov, one of his closest allies and the chief of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, expressed strong suspicions that Navalny was murdered.

According to the prison service in Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets district where Navalny was incarcerated, he fell ill after a walk on Friday, losing consciousness shortly after. Despite emergency medical efforts to resuscitate him, they were unsuccessful, and Navalny was pronounced dead. The cause of death is currently under investigation.

Following the news of Navalny’s demise, Muscovites paid tribute by laying flowers at a monument to victims of political repression near the Lubyanka, once the headquarters of Russia’s infamous KGB spy agency. Meanwhile, prosecutors cautioned against participating in mass protests, leading to several detentions in central Moscow and other cities.

Just a day before his death, Navalny was seen in a court hearing via video link, appearing well and even laughing. Yulia Navalnaya, visibly emotional, addressed the Munich Security Conference, casting doubt on the reliability of state sources regarding her husband’s death and warning that those responsible would be held accountable sooner than expected.

Navalny’s final Instagram post to his wife, two days prior, expressed his sense of closeness despite the physical distance between them, as he leaves behind two children, Dasha, studying in the US, and Zakhar, still in school.

Alexei Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, stated, “I don’t want condolences. We saw him in prison on February 12th – alive, healthy, and happy.” However, Navalny’s aide, Leonid Volkov, suggested that the prison authorities’ statement admitting Navalny’s death amounted to a confession of their culpability.

Russia’s state TV channels offered minimal coverage, with RT suggesting Navalny died due to a blood clot, a claim dismissed by Moscow specialist Alexander Polupan. He insisted such a diagnosis required a post-mortem examination.

The international community swiftly reacted to Navalny’s death, praising his bravery against Russian oppression. France and Norway held Russian authorities accountable, while US President Joe Biden squarely blamed Vladimir Putin, emphasizing Putin’s brutality.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, merely stated Navalny’s death had been reported to the president, who was away. UK Foreign Minister David Cameron condemned Putin’s regime in the wake of Navalny’s death.

Navalny, Putin’s staunchest critic, returned to Russia in 2021 after surviving a poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent in 2020. Despite months of medical treatment in Germany, he was arrested upon his return to Moscow, never leaving jail until his death 37 months later.

Another of his closest aides, Maria Pevchikh, emphasized the immense responsibility now resting upon them in the wake of Navalny’s passing. She highlighted the necessity to continue his work with honor and to maintain the same level of bravery and courage he exemplified.

Navalny, aged 47, had long aimed to challenge Vladimir Putin in the electoral arena, but his candidacy was barred in the 2018 presidential election. Consequently, Russia’s upcoming election will proceed without any significant opposition.

The anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin was disqualified from participating in the election due to alleged irregularities found in the signatures supporting his candidacy.

Navalny, initially known for his anti-corruption efforts, joins a series of notable Russian figures who have met untimely demises while opposing Putin’s regime.

In 2015, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated on a Moscow bridge near the Kremlin, while Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner private military company, died in an unexplained plane crash in August 2023 following his involvement in an armed mutiny.

Despite concerns from friends regarding his well-being, Navalny remained resolute. After being relocated from a penal colony east of Moscow in December, he disappeared for weeks before resurfacing in a penal colony in the Arctic town of Kharp.

During a court appearance via video, Navalny claimed to have been taken on a 20-day journey across Russia and described his current conditions as “much better” than those in his previous confinement in Vladimir.

However, he faced repeated punishments, including solitary confinement, administered by prison authorities. His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, revealed that he had spent over 280 days in isolation.

Due to his recent conviction for extremism in August, Navalny was not slated for release until his seventies, marking his third prison sentence. Supporters alleged that the Kremlin sought to silence him permanently.

Russian human rights activist and journalist Eva Merkacheva disclosed that Navalny had been subjected to solitary confinement at least 27 times, asserting that such treatment undoubtedly impacted his health.

Merkacheva emphasized that under the law, no individual should endure more than 15 days in isolation, as prolonged solitary confinement poses severe risks to physical and mental well-being.