'Murdered by Putin': Kremlin arch-enemy Alexei Navalny dies after 'going for a walk' in freezing Russian prison

16 February 2024, 12:52 | Updated: 16 February 2024, 14:24

Putin has been blamed for the death of Navalny
Putin has been blamed for the death of Navalny. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Putin critics have blamed the Russian president for the death of Alexei Navalny, after the opposition leader collapsed and died in prison.

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Navalny died on Friday after "going for a walk" in his prison colony, in the Arctic Yamalo-Nenets region of Russia.

His cause of death has not been confirmed, but Russian outlets reported that he suffered a detached blood clot.

Navalny, who has long criticised Putin and campaigned against him, had suffered a series of attacks on his health in recent years.

He was poisoned with Novichok in 2020, and went to Germany for urgent treatment.

On his return to Russia in 2021, he was jailed for violating parole conditions for a 2014 prison sentence, which was widely condemned as a political charge.

He claimed he was being tortured in prison, and his staff said he had been placed in isolation 27 times over a total of 308 days - the latest instance of which was on Wednesday.

Read more: Vladimir Putin's main political rival Alexei Navalny 'disappears from prison'

Read more: Putin critic Alexei Navalny jailed for a further 19 years on 'extremism' charges

At a court hearing in January via video link Navalny asked for better access to reading material behind bars
At a court hearing in January via video link Navalny asked for better access to reading material behind bars. Picture: Getty

Putin has been informed of Navalny's death, a Kremlin spokesperson said - but Putin critics and Western politicians blamed Putin for his death.

Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya said: "I don’t know whether I should believe this horrible news or not.”

She added: "We cant really believe Putin and his government.”

Navalnaya said that if the news is true, Putin and his government should be held responsible, as well as for everything "they are doing to Russia".

"I am asking everyone who is here to unite and help punish the Russian regime," Navalnaya said.

His mother Lyudmila said her son was "alive, healthy and happy" when she last saw him on Sunday."I don't want to hear any condolences," she added.

Outspoken Kremlin critic Bill Browder told LBC: "Alexei Navalny was one of the most courageous people in Russia.

“He was ready to call out Putin for who he is which is A criminal, a thief and a murderer.

“For that Putin tried to kill him with chemical nerve agent Novichok in 2020. Here we are in 2024 and they got him.

“He was an extremely healthy vital young man before the poisoning attempt. It’s obvious to me that Alexei Navalny was killed by Putin.”

Mr Browder said later: "Let's make no mistake, Putin assassinated Alexei Navalny. He did so because Alexei Navalny was brave enough to stand up to Putin.   

"He did so because Navalny offered the Russian people an alternative to kleptocracy and repression. This is a tragic day for Navalny and his family, but also for Russia and the hope for a better future."

Watch Again: James O'Brien and Bill Browder on Alexei Navalny's death | 16/02/24

Responding to news of Navalny's death, former oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said: "If this is true, then, regardless of the formal reason, Vladimir Putin personally bears responsibility for his premature death.

Khodorkovsky said that it was Putin that “first authorised the poisoning of Alexei and then put him in prison”.

The EU also blamed the Kremlin for Navalny's death.

European Council president Charles Michel said that he "fought for the values of freedom and democracy. For his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice."

He added: "The EU holds the Russian regime for sole responsible for this tragic death. I extend my deepest condolences to his family. And to those who fight for democracy around the world in the darkest conditions.

"Fighters die. But the fight for freedom never ends."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described the death as "terrible news", adding: "As the fiercest advocate for Russian democracy, Alexei Navalny demonstrated incredible courage throughout his life."

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said Vladimir Putin "should be accountable for what has happened".

Lord Cameron said: "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."

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on the implementation of the high speed
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on the implementation of the high speed. Picture: Alamy

A statement issued today says: "On February 16, 2024, in correctional colony No 3, convict A A Navalny felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness," a statement says.

"The institution's medical workers immediately arrived and an emergency medical team was called.

"All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, but they did not yield positive results.

"Emergency medical doctors confirmed the death of the convict," it concluded.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at an appeal hearing after he was jailed for 19 years in a maximum security prison on extremism charges
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at an appeal hearing after he was jailed for 19 years in a maximum security prison on extremism charges. Picture: Getty

An ambulance arrived to try to resuscitate him, but he died.

There was no immediate confirmation of Mr Navalny's death from his own team. An investigation is under way.

He had been placed in solitary confinement on Wednesday, but it is unclear why, Russian media states.

Navalny was being held at a jail about 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle where he had been sentenced to a ‘special regime’ of 19 years in jail.

In 2020 Navalny fell into a coma after suspected Novichok poisoning by Russia’s FSB security service and he was evacuated to Germany for treatment.

Towards the end of last year he took to social media to tell his supporters not to worry about him.

Alexey Navalny posted this image to Instagram after he came out of a coma in 2020
Alexey Navalny posted this image to Instagram after he came out of a coma in 2020. Picture: Instagram

Writing on Twitter in December he described himself as "the new Santa", and confirmed that he had been moved to the IK-3 penal colony, nicknamed "Polar Wolf", in the northern town of Kharp, some 1,900km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

He had previously been held in Melekhovo, 235 km (145 miles) east of Moscow.

At the IK-6 prison colony he had been in isolation a total of 27 times over a total of 308 days.

He had spent months in isolation at Prison Colony No 6 before he was moved to IK-6.

He had reportedly been punished for minor infractions and was placed in a punishment cell.

Prison officials had refused to give him his mail, deprived him of writing supplies, food he had ordered and paid for in addition to regular meals, and would not allow visits from relatives, Navalny argued in his lawsuits challenging his treatment.

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