Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison

Henry

Russia’s top opposition politician, 47-year-old Alexei Navalny, died on Friday in the Arctic prison colony where he served a term of 19 years.

Russia’s federal prison service says Navalny – who was already the target of a poisoning before he went to prison – fell ill unexpectedly after going for a walk.

“Navalny felt bad after a walking session and lost consciousness almost immediately. Medical staff arrived immediately and an ambulance team was called,” the prison service said in a statement.

“Resuscitation was applied, but did not produce any positive results. Paramedics confirmed the death of the convict. The cause of his death is still being determined.”

Russia’s investigative committee says an investigation has been launched.

According to Navalny’s defense team, they have not been informed of his death, but a lawyer is on his way to the remote Kharp prison in the Arctic region to find out more.

However, Western governments were quick to blame the Kremlin.

“The Russian government bears a heavy responsibility,” Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Navalny has been in prison in Russia since January 2021 when he was sentenced to a prison colony due to “extremism”. This term was extended to 19 years in August last year.

He spent most of his detention at the IK-6 penal colony in the Vladimir region, about 250 km (155 miles) east of Moscow.

In December, he disappeared for more than two weeks. At the end of that month, it was revealed that he had been moved to the infamous IK-3 colony at Kharp in the Arctic.

On December 26, Navalny said on social media that he was “doing well” after a “fairly exhausting” 20-day transfer to the remote prison inside the Arctic Circle.

IK-3 is more than 1,900 km (1,200 mi) northeast of Moscow. The name means Northern Lights, but the place’s nickname is “Polar Wolf”.

It was built in the 1960s on the site of a camp that was part of the Stalin-era labor camp network known as the Gulag. It can house up to 1,020 prisoners. Prisoners are put to work treating reindeer skins.

Navalny started as an anti-corruption campaigner in 2007 and led major protests in 2011-12; his first conviction was received in 2013 for embezzlement. However, he denied the charge.

After being excluded from the 2018 presidential election, Navalny was hospitalized in Siberia in August 2020 after losing consciousness during a flight.

He was transferred to a Berlin hospital where tests showed he had been poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. Navalny has pres. Vladimir Putin blamed for the poisoning. The Kremlin denied the accusation.