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The Prominent anti-Putin activist Aleksei Navalny died a month before elections

By Ave Bozic, BA Politics and Korean

Former Russian opposition leader and Anti-Putin activist, Aleksei Navalny, passed away in prison on February 16th at age 47.

Navalny, the most prominent and successful opponent of current president Vladimir Putin and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has died a month before Russian elections. In the upcoming elections between March 15th and 17th, Putin is set to be re-elected for a fifth consecutive term in office.

Navalny’s supporters claimed he was murdered rather than having died of natural causes. His death has facilitated many suspicions. Officials at the prison stated he died of “sudden death syndrome.” 

In December of last year, Navalny was transferred to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, one of the toughest in Russia, and a derivative of Soviet Gulags, and remained there until his death.

Navalny was imprisoned in January 2021, after he returned to Russia from Germany. He previously received medical treatment there following a Novichok nerve agent attack in April 2017. He was serving multiple life sentences, which were repeatedly extended by the government while he was detained. Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence at the time of his death. 

On February 16th, Russian official channels reported Navalny went for a walk within the prison grounds, started to feel unwell, and promptly collapsed. They claimed to have had an ambulance with him within two minutes. He was allegedly pronounced dead within two hours of resuscitation attempts.

“In the days leading up to his death, Navalny seemed healthy.” Lyudmila Navalnaya, Navalny’s mother said. 

Ten days after Navalny’s passing, his body was passed to his family after “a week-long standoff” between the Russian government and Lyudmila Navalnaya.

The proceedings of his funeral are still unclear as the Kremlin’s statements over the past week have implied a stance aiming for a funeral out of the public eye. Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, accused the Kremlin of involvement in his death and stalling the handover of his body until any traces of a nerve agent had already left his system. 

Reports came out claiming Navalny was about to be released in a prisoner exchange. 

Vadim Krasikov, a Russian hitman imprisoned on a life sentence in Germany, Navalny’s colleagues claimed, was supposedly going to be exchanged for Aleksei Navalny alongside two US citizens detained in Russia. The Kremlin has since denied these claims.

Dmitry Peskov, the speaker for Putin, rejected any allegations regarding possible government involvement in Navalny’s death and dubbed them “absurd.”

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