Who was Alexei Navalny?

Background

Alexei Navalny was a prominent Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist. He was the leader of the Russia of the Future party and a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2017, Navalny was attacked by unknown assailants, in what was called as the Zelyonka attack. In 2019, when Navalny was arrested and imprisoned, he was hospitalized with severe damage to his eyes and skin.

In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok but survived after treatment in Germany. He was arrested in 2021 upon returning to Russia and sentenced to over 2 years in prison. His death in custody has sparked outrage.

Death of Alexei Navalny

On February 18th, 2024, it was reported that Alexei Navalny had died in prison at the age of 47. According to statements from the Russian Penitentiary Service, Navalny died of a “Sudden death syndrome”. It is a vague term for different cardiac syndromes that cause sudden cardiac arrest and death. But his supporters and international observers suspected foul play. Navalny had been serving time at a maximum-security prison when his health suddenly deteriorated overnight. He was pronounced dead in the early morning hours.

Reaction

Navalny’s death triggered mass protests across Russia demanding an investigation and condemning the Putin regime. Western leaders issued statements mourning Navalny as a “hero” and called for those responsible to face consequences. Amnesty International and other human rights groups characterized his death as “extrajudicial killing” and called it a major blow to dissent in Russia.

Thousands attended memorial rallies across major Russian cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Police crackdowns led to over 2000 arrests. The Kremlin dismissed allegations of foul play as “conspiracy theories” and said Navalny died of natural causes. This was met with widespread skepticism.

Investigation called

Navalny’s family and supporters called for an international investigation into his death citing past poisoning attempts and lack of proper medical care in prison. Political allies alleged he was systematically and deliberately denied treatment for health problems. The Kremlin said no inquiry was warranted and asserted “no crime was committed.” Still, demands persisted for autopsy results and clarity into the circumstances around his sudden death.

Legacy

Despite suppression of dissent in Russia, Navalny remained emblematic of resilient anti-Putin sentiment up until his last days. His death prompted international observers to lament the loss a of pivotal opposition voice and speculate on impacts to Russia’s political climate and civil society.


Leave a Reply