Russian spies ‘visited Polar Wolf prison’ days before Navalny’s death and ‘disabled CCTV devices’

18 February 2024, 08:56 | Updated: 18 February 2024, 14:06

Russian spies 'visited Navalny days before he died'.
Russian spies 'visited Navalny days before he died'. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Officers from the Russian intelligence service have been accused of visiting and disconnecting CCTV devices at the prison Navalny was being held in.

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Several officers from the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, reportedly visited the ‘Polar Wolf’ Arctic prison at Kharp in the days before the Russian opposition leader's death.

Activists at the human rights group site gulagu.net said the officers’ visit was recorded in a report by the local branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service, The Times reports.

The human rights group has also queried the speed at which statements on Navalny’s death were released as suspicious.

Just two minutes after Navalny, 47, was recorded to have died - 2:17pm local time - the prison put out a statement which has been likened to a press release in its alleged preparedness.

Seven minutes later, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, was speaking to the media about Navalny's death.

“This rapid timing can only mean one thing,” the group claimed.

“Everything was pre-planned and co-ordinated, right down to the FSIN press release. Minute by minute. Second by second.”

Some 400 Russians have been arrested while laying tributes.
Some 400 Russians have been arrested while laying tributes. Picture: Alamy

An unnamed inmate at the Polar Wolf prison told local media that prisoners in the institution had been told at 10am that day Navalny was dead, Novaya Gazeta reports.

But the inmate said unknown vehicles had arrived at the prison during the night before, adding: “I think Navalny died much earlier than the time that was announced.”

It comes amid an ongoing dispute between the family of Navalny and Russian officials over the Putin critic’s body.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, confirmed his body was missing from the morgue after his mother and lawyer attended the site on Saturday - despite having been “assured” by officials it was there.

Navalny’s mother was told his body would only be handed over once a post-mortem examination had been completed, she said.

The opposition leader’s team have claimed that he was murdered on Putin’s order.

“Alexei Navalny was murdered,” said Ms Yarmysh in a video.

“The whole world knows that the president of Russia personally gave this order just as it knows that Alexei was never afraid of him, never stayed silent, and that he never stopped acting. We must not give up. This is what Alexei urged us to do,” she said.

In the wake of his death, some 400 Russians have reportedly been arrested for laying tributes across the country to the anti-corruption campaigner, according to human rights media group OVD-info.

The Kremlin is working to stamp out the emergence of any mass gatherings in the wake of Navalny’s death, according to reports.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said there 'should be consequences' for Navalny's death.
Foreign Secretary David Cameron said there 'should be consequences' for Navalny's death. Picture: Alamy

On Saturday, Navalny's cause of death was given as “sudden death syndrome”, according to his ally Ivan Zhdanov on X.

An examination into the opposition leader’s cause of death will allegedly be revealed next week.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told broadcasters at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday there "should be consequences" for his death.

"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."

Matt Frei speaks to Marina Litvinenko, Anti-Putin Campaigner and widow of Alexander Litvinenko

Photos and videos shared online show officers carrying away protestors from the scene of makeshift memorials in Moscow and St Petersburg for Navalny.

Officers reportedly ripped placards from protestors and journalists in Moscow were filmed being detained.

Ms Yarmysh officially confirmed the Russian opposition leader’s death on Saturday.

He died at 2:17pm local time on Friday 16 February, according to a document given to Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila.

Navalny's wife said on Friday Putin should be held responsible for the arch-critic's death.

Yulia Navalnaya said that Putin would "soon" be held "liable" for the death of Navalny, a longstanding critic of the regime, who collapsed after "going for a walk" in custody on Friday aged 47.

Read more: 'Evil' Putin must pay: World leaders speak out against Russia after 'murder' of Alexei Navalny

Read more: Smirking Vladimir Putin seen for first time since arch enemy Alexei Navalny dies while 'going for a walk' in prison

Prosecutors have warned Russians against attending any mass protest in Moscow.
Prosecutors have warned Russians against attending any mass protest in Moscow. Picture: Alamy

Protests have been held across other world cities in the wake of Navalny’s death, as people were seen outside the Russian embassies in London and Berlin chanting against the Russian president.

The grinning tyrant brushed off the world's condemnation of Navalny's death as he met workers at a power plant on Friday.

The circumstances of his death remain unclear, and Ms Navalnaya said at the time she was not even certain that he had died, given the unreliable nature of the information given by the Kremlin.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Ms Navalnaya said: "Thank you for the conference organisers that gave me the main stage. You have all probably seen the terrible news that came in today.

Yulia Navalnaya
Yulia Navalnaya. Picture: Getty

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

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

"I don't know whether to believe the news, the terrible news that we are receiving only from the state sources in Russia," she said, adding that Putin and his government are "always lying".

"But if this is true, I would like that Putin and all his coterie, Putin's friends, his government to know that they will be accountable for what they've done to our country, to my family, and to my husband.

"They will be liable for that. That day will come very soon."

Alexei Navalny died in prison
Alexei Navalny died in prison. Picture: Getty

She also called for the world's leaders to focus on defeating Putin's "evil" regime.

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's mother Lyudmila said that her son had appeared well on Monday, the last time she saw him.

She wrote on Facebook: "I don't want to hear any condolences. We saw him in prison on the (February) 12, in a meeting. He was alive, healthy and happy."

Putin on Friday
Putin on Friday. Picture: Getty

Navalny 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.

He disappeared for several weeks late last year, before reappearing in his Arctic prison.

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

Kremlin critics and Western politicians blamed Putin for his death after the news emerged on Friday morning.

Bill Browder told LBC: "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."

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

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "Putin fears nothing more than dissent from his own people. The world has lost a freedom fighter in Alexei Navalny.

"We will honour his name. And in his name we will stand up for democracy and our values."

US President Joe Biden said Washington does not know exactly what happened, "but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did".

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

Putin on Friday
Putin on Friday. Picture: Getty

Foreign Secretary 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."

People gather to lay flowers paying their last respect to Alexei Navalny at the at the Wall of Sorrow memorial to victims of political repression in Moscow
People gather to lay flowers paying their last respect to Alexei Navalny at the at the Wall of Sorrow memorial to victims of political repression in Moscow. Picture: Alamy

The UK Foreign Office said in a statement that it had summoned the Russian Embassy to make clear that the authorities were being held "fully responsible".

A spokesperson said: "Alexei Navalny dedicated his life to exposing the corruption of the Russian system, calling for free and open politics, and holding the Kremlin to account.

"We stand today with his family, friends, colleagues and supporters. Our thoughts go out to them.

"The Russian authorities saw Mr Navalny as a threat. Many Russian citizens felt he gave them a voice.

"In recent years, the authorities imprisoned him on fabricated charges, poisoned him with a banned nerve agent, and sent him to an Arctic penal colony. No-one should doubt the brutal nature of the Russian system. His death must be investigated fully and transparently.

"The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office today summoned the Russian Embassy to make clear that we hold the Russian authorities fully responsible.

"Mr Navalny was a man of great courage and iron will. Even from his prison cell, he continued to speak up for the rights of the Russian people. His dedication to human rights and exposing corruption was an inspiration to millions. The ideals for which he stood and died will live forever."

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