Alexei Navalny

Russian Activist and Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Dies in Prison: 

Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders and a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, has died in prison at age 47.

According to a statement from the Russian prison service, Alexei Navalny lost consciousness after taking a walk at the penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. The statement said medical staff tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.

The prison is located about 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle, known to be one of the harshest in Russia’s system. Navalny had been moved there in late 2022 from a prison close to Moscow.

The cause of death has not been released yet. An investigation is underway.

Alexei Navalny Repeatedly Targeted by Authorities

Alexei Navalny rose to fame in Russia in the early 2010s for his investigations into government corruption. He built a large following campaigning against Putin’s rule.

In 2020, Navalny fell seriously ill on a flight in Siberia and was transported to Germany for treatment. Laboratories there confirmed he had been poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent. Navalny accused Putin of ordering his poisoning, which the Kremlin denied.

After recovering, Navalny returned to Russia in early 2021 despite the risks. He was swiftly arrested and sentenced to prison time for parole violations. His original sentence was extended to 19 years in 2023.

Human rights groups said the various charges against Navalny were fabricated to silence Putin’s most vocal domestic critic.

International Reaction Calls Death ‘Suspicious’

Leaders worldwide reacted to Alexei Navalny’s sudden death by calling for an investigation into the circumstances.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Navalny’s death was “deeply suspicious” and called for a “transparent investigation.”

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote that “Alexei Navalny’s fight for democracy and truth will not be forgotten.”

In the U.S., National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Navalny’s death was “another blow” to calls for political freedom in Russia. He said the U.S. will cooperate with allies to hold Russia accountable.

Profile of Russian Dissident Leader

Alexei Navalny had been a thorn in Putin’s side for over a decade with his anti-corruption campaigns and organizing of protests. Here are some key facts about his life and activism.

Born in 1976, Navalny trained as a lawyer after graduating college. He joined Russia’s liberal opposition movement in the 2000s and gained fame through his anti-corruption blogging. In 2011 and 2012, Navalny organized large protests against Putin’s government, the biggest shows of dissent in Russia at that time. He ran for Moscow mayor in 2013 and won 27% of the vote in a race seen as unfair and tilted against him by the Kremlin.

Starting in 2016, Navalny released multiple videos investigating the wealth of Putin’s inner circle. His detailed exposés revealed their luxury properties, yachts and other assets. Navalny was barred from running as an opposition candidate against Putin in Russia’s 2018 presidential election. He called the process rigged.

In 2020, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt by nerve agent poisoning. Navalny accused Putin of directly ordering his murder. After months recovering in Berlin, Navalny defiantly returned to Russia in 2021 knowing he would likely be jailed. His arrest sparked massive street protests. Once imprisoned, Navalny had his original 30-month sentence extended through fresh extremism and fraud charges. By 2023, his total prison time was 19 years.

What’s Next After Navalny’s Death?

The shocking death of Russia’s top opposition leader in state custody will spark strong reactions. There will likely be protests by Navalny’s supporters in major cities like Moscow.

However, police will probably crack down on any unrest harshly. With no real political rivals left, Putin will likely continue his 20-year authoritarian rule unchallenged.

Navalny’s death drew global attention to Russia’s poor human rights record. But meaningful change seems unlikely without Navalny leading the opposition against Putin’s regime.

The future looks bleak for political freedoms in Russia now that Putin has eliminated one of his harshest critics Alexei Navalny.

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