Alexey Navalny, a powerful political enemy who never shied away from criticizing Russia President Vladimir Putin, even from prison, died in a penal colony, Russian prison authorities said Friday. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service Office for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region reported his death, saying he “felt unwell” after going for a walk on Friday and “lost consciousness almost immediately.”

“The institution’s medical workers arrived immediately and an emergency medical team was called. All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, but they did not yield positive results,” the prison authority said in a statement. “Emergency doctors confirmed the death of the prisoner.”

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said her team could not confirm the information from the penitentiary service.

“The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is spreading the news of the death of Alexey Navalny in IK-3. We do not have confirmation about this yet. Alexey’s lawyer is currently on the way to Kharp. As soon as we have any information, we will report it,” Yarmysh said on social media.

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), appears on screen during a legal appeal against his nine-year prison sentence, at Moscow City Court, May 24, 2022, in Moscow, Russia.  / Credit: Contributor/Getty

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), appears on screen during a legal appeal against his nine-year prison sentence, at Moscow City Court, May 24, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. / Credit: Contributor/Getty

Navalny appeared in a Russian court via video link on Thursday, where, according to local media, he appeared cheerful and healthy. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been informed of Navalny’s death on Friday and told reporters that “it should be the responsibility of doctors to clarify” the cause of death.

Navalny, who emerged as the most outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government before being jailed in 2021, was initially serving a nine-year sentence in a high-security prison about 150 miles east of Moscow for parole violations. fraud and contempt of court when he was found guilty of promoting “extremism.”

Navalny, 47, and many outside observers have always considered the charges against him to be politically motivated retaliation for his criticism of Putin and the Kremlin’s policies, both internal and external. He was serving a long sentence for various charges, including promoting “extremism.” The United States Department of State also considered prosecuting him and imprisonment “for political reasons.”

Navalny was born in 1976 in Butyn, a town west of Moscow, and grew up in a village about 60 kilometers from the capital. In 1997, he graduated from the People’s Friendship University of Russia in Moscow with a law degree and spent a year in the United States as a Yale World Scholar in 2010.

Around this time, he began his public opposition to the Kremlin. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow and denounced an election he said was rigged by his opponent, a Putin ally.

Navalny described the Russian president’s party as one of “thieves and thieves,” becoming a rallying cry for his millions of followers on Twitter and YouTube and a thorn in Putin’s side. He attempted to challenge Putin in the country’s 2018 presidential election, but the Kremlin stopped him from running due to a previous fraud conviction that Navalny said was politically motivated.

After being jailed for organizing an “unsanctioned protest” in 2019, he suddenly fell ill. Russian doctors called it “contact dermatitis,” but Navalny and his personal doctor suspected he had been poisoned. Two years earlier, he had been attacked with a green dye that left a serious chemical burn on his right eye.

Speaking to “60 Minutes” that year, he questioned why he was still alive.

“Maybe they missed the good time when I was less famous,” he said.

Then, in the summer of 2020, the anti-corruption activist immersed in attacks of agony while on board a flight. His plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Siberia. Initially, Navalny, who had fallen into a coma, was not allowed to leave the country. Russia said it was a purely medical decision, but his team feared the worst.

After 48 hours, the Kremlin allowed him to fly by air ambulance to a Berlin hospital known for its experience with poisoned attack victims. There, doctors confirmed that he had been poisoned with Novichok, a highly toxic nerve agent said to be 10 times more potent than sarin gas.

After making a dramatic recovery, he said the Russian president himself was to blame, telling Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” that “I’m sure he’s responsible.”

However, in January 2021, Navalny boldly returned to Russia, which has denied any involvement in his illness. Upon his return, Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport and accused of violating the terms of a previous suspended sentence for failing to communicate with prison officials while in Germany. tens of thousands According to The Associated Press, thousands of people took to the streets to demand his release.

a russian court ordered him to serve the remaining 32 months in prison, a sentence that Navalny once again denounced as politically motivated.

“My life is not worth two cents, but I will do everything I can to make the law prevail,” he said at the time.

While in prison, he went on a 24-day hunger strike, a protest over what he perceived as a lack of adequate medical care. He the strike ended after he said he had been examined by non-prison doctors, although his actions again drew thousands of people to the streets in support.

In April 2021, his wife Yulia said “60 minutes” that, no matter what happens next, “Alexey already won.”

“He survived this horrible poisoning and returned to Moscow to confront those who tried to kill him,” he said. “Putin knows it. His advisors, his friends, his government, everyone in his inner circle knows it.”

In March 2022, Navalny was found guilty of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine additional years of detention in a penal colony in a high security prison. Navalny again denounced the accusations as unfounded and politically motivated.

In August 2023, a court added another 19 years to his sentence. A few months later, Navalny was transferred to a high security prison with a reputation for abuse, known as the “torture conveyor belt”, which raised further concerns about his safety.

“Without public protection, Alexey will come face to face with those who have already tried to kill him, and nothing will stop them from trying again,” his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said after the court’s decision in March. “Therefore, now we are talking not only about Alexey’s freedom, but also about his life.”

Then, in December, his followers said that I lost contact with him as he was apparently being moved elsewhere in the Russian prison system, further raising concerns about his well-being.

Navalny is survived by his wife and two children, Daria and Zakhar.

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