Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dead in Arctic prison News
© WikiMedia (Michał Siergiejevicz)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dead in Arctic prison

Alexei Navalny, a leading opposition figure in Russia, died in an Arctic prison colony, federal authorities said Friday.

Navalny “felt unwell after taking a walk, and began to lose consciousness almost immediately. All necessary resuscitation efforts were made, and did not yield results. Doctors immediately pronounced the convict dead,” said a statement issued by Russia’s federal prison service, and shared by local media.

A lawyer by trade, Navalny has over the past nearly two decades risen to prominence as an opposition activist and anti-corruption crusader.  “I believe that one of the main problems in modern Russia is corruption. I focus on combating it using all available methods: conducting investigations, publicizing facts about abuses of power, and organizing peaceful protests,” he said, as quoted by Yale University, where he completed a fellowship in 2010. His anti-corruption activities have attracted an enormous global audience, his anti-corruption videos drawing hundreds of millions of YouTube viewers.

In August 2020, he was poisoned with a suspected nerve agent, and rushed to Germany, where he spent several months recovering.  Details of the poisoning – including the announcement by German authorities in September 2020 that the nerve agent came from a Soviet-era chemical group called Novichok – drew parallels with other recent high-profile poisonings linked to the Kremlin, including that of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.  As he recovered, the international community buzzed with policy papers, calls for justice and statements of solidarity.

Upon recovering, Navalny returned to Moscow, where he was immediately arrested on charges of having violated a probation order related to a years-old criminal case that itself was broadly viewed as illegitimate, as highlighted in a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.

Navalny is far from the first opposition figure to have died in Vladimir Putin’s Russia in recent years.

Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Russian opposition politician and vocal Putin critic, was killed in 2015 on a bridge just outside of the Kremlin. His death galvanized the Russian opposition and its brazen nature sent global shockwaves.

More recently, last August Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash weeks after staging an armed uprising challenging Russia’s military support for his forces in Ukraine.

The death also draws parallels to that of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer whose death during a corruption investigation in a Moscow detention center in 2009 sparked waves of global sanctions targeting human rights abuses at Moscow’s behest.