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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in Arctic jail

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, collapsed and died on Friday after going for a walk at the “Polar Wolf” Arctic penal colony, where he was serving a lengthy sentence, according to the Russian prison service.

Navalny, a 47-year-old former lawyer, rose to popularity more than a decade ago with blogs about widespread corruption and opulence among Russia’s elite, which he described as “crooks and thieves”.

According to a statement from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District’s Federal Penitentiary Service, Navalny became ill after going for a stroll at the IK-3 penal colony in Kharp, which is roughly 1,900 kilometres (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow and near the Arctic Circle.

He lost consciousness almost immediately, it said.

“All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, which did not yield positive results,” the prison service said, adding that causes of death were being established.

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The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin was informed of the killing, which sparked widespread indignation in the West, with some accusing the Russian leader of guilt.

Russia accuses Ukraine of shooting down plane, killing 65 Ukrainian soldiers

President Vladimir Putin of Russia

Supporters of Navalny said they couldn’t confirm his death, but if he was, they felt he was killed.

‘MURDER’

Navalny’s lawyer was on his way to the prison in Kharp where his client was serving sentences totalling more than 30 years.

Russian state television showed a press conference by the central bank chief as the news broke.

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His spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said she had no confirmation that he was dead.

“My sincere belief is that it was the conditions of detention that led to Navalny’s death,” Russian newspaper editor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov told Reuters. “His sentence was supplemented by murder.”

Supporters had cast Navalny as a future leader of Russia who would one day walk free from jail to take the presidency, though many opposition activists had expressed fears that he was in grave danger in the Russian prison system.

Navalny earned admiration from Russia’s disparate opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent.

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He said at the time that he was poisoned in Siberia in August 2020. The Kremlin denied trying to kill him and said there was no evidence he was poisoned with a nerve agent.

Navalny long forecast Russia could face seismic political turmoil, including revolution, because he said Putin built a brittle system of personal rule reliant on sycophancy and corruption.

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