“Alexei’s Death is a Murder Organized by Putin…”

Foreign Policy Brief #122 | By: Yelena Korshunov| February 23, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.euronews.com

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Alexei Navalny, a leading opponent of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, died in the Polar Wolf colony on February 16.

According to Russian officials, Navalny felt sick after a morning walk and “almost immediately” lost consciousness. Later, despite “all the necessary resuscitation measures” carried out by the ambulance team, Navalny was pronounced dead. However, some say Alexei’s death occurred earlier, on February 15, after he participated in a court hearing via video link. A prisoner of the Polar Wolf, on condition of anonymity, told the Russian European news portal “Novaya Gazeta Europe” that Navalny could have died later that day.

When employees of the colony accelerated the evening verification and strengthened security, “so that it was impossible to stick a nose out of the cell.” At the same time, “one could hear some cars driving into the zone three times late in the evening and at night.” The morning of February 16th began with a thorough search of the barracks, and already at 10 a.m. (8 a.m. Moscow time) rumors about Alexei’s death spread throughout the colony.

From statements by Navalny’s associates, we know that since February 14, he was kept in a punishment cell for yet another far-fetched reason, and it was the 27th time he was sent there.

Overall, Navalny spent almost 300 days within a punishment cell, leaving a blood-curdling description of the torture, “The solitary confinement cell is a 2.5 x 3 meter [8.2 x 9.8 ft.] concrete kennel. Most of the time it’s unbearable there because it’s cold and damp. There’s water on the floor. I got the beach version – it’s very hot and there’s almost no air. The window is tiny, and the walls are too thick for any air flow – even the cobwebs don’t move. There’s no ventilation. At night you lie there and feel like a fish on the shore. At 5 a.m. they take away your mattress and pillow and raise your bunk. At 9 p.m. the bunk is lowered again and the mattress is returned. There’s an iron table, an iron bench, a sink, a hole in the floor and two cameras on the ceiling.”

Navalny’s body was not released to his mother.

The colony stated that Navalny’s body was transported to the morgue in Salekhard [nearby city]. The politician’s mother and lawyer arrived at the morgue just to find it closed. They called the phone number on the door and were told that there was no Alexei Navalny’s body. Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh said that the Investigative Committee of Salekhard told the politician’s lawyer that the cause of Navalny’s death had not been established, “a repeat histological examination has been taken,” and the results of which will be known next week. There is a growing opinion in the press that Navalny’s body is not being given to loved ones in order to cover up the traces of the tortures and murder.

Russian authorities’ and world’s reaction to Navalny’s death.

Immediately after Navalny’s death was announced to the public it resonated throughout the continents. Protests took place all over the world for three days as a sign of solidarity with the oppositionist and his family. At least 360 protesters were detained in Russia. The widow of politician Yulia Navalnaya said that she would continue the work of her deceased husband and called on everyone to fight with her.

On Monday, February 19th, the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “the investigation is underway and all necessary actions in this regard are being carried out, but so far the results of this investigation have not been made public and, in fact, they are still unknown.” When asked whether the Kremlin was interested in conducting a thorough investigation into this matter, he replied: “The actions that are provided in accordance with Russian legislation are being carried out.” When Peskov was asked by journalists whether he knew when all procedures related to the release of Navalny’s body to relatives could be completed, he said “No, this is not a question for us. We are not involved in this matter. This is not the function of the presidential administration.”

Answering journalists’ question of what Vladimir Putin’s reaction was to Alexei’s death, Peskov said: “I have nothing to add to what has been said on this topic.” Peskov also clarified that the President of the Russian Federation has not yet publicly spoken out in connection with Navalny’s death. The Speaker of the State Duma [Russia’s Federal Assembly] Vyacheslav Volodin went further, shifting the blame to Washington and Brussels for Navalny’s death.

Thousands of people around the world pay tribute to Alexei Navalny, expressing condolences and support to his family, and blaming Putin for murdering his strong political opponent. Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster, former World Chess Champion and opposition politician said, “Putin tried and failed to kill Navalny quickly and secretly with poison—and now he killed him slowly and in front of everyone in prison. He [Navalny] was killed for showing the world Putin and his mafia as the crooks and thieves that they are. My thoughts are with the wife and children of this brave man.”

Former US President Barack Obama has described Alexei Navalny as “a fearless advocate for his beliefs who died unbroken by the tyranny he opposed.”

Soviet dissident, former Russia’s political prisoner, and Israeli statesman Natan Sharansky said that “in fact, this is a monstrous torture. Out of 2.5 years [of imprisonment], a person [Navalny] was kept in a punishment cell for almost a year, which in my time was a real torture of hunger and cold. And judging by what he wrote to me, it’s the same today. Therefore, it is clear that he was, one might say, killed there every day. This is revenge, and fear, and the desire to strangle him and his voice. With his life and his death, he showed how to fight evil, uncompromisingly and to the end.”

Ilya Barabanov, special correspondent of the BBC Russian Service Today wrote, “I lost a friend whom I knew for almost 20 years, and millions of people in Russia lost hope for a normal future. Alexei’s ability to instill hope in people, even when he was already in a distant colony, was his amazing talent.”

Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez said he was “shocked by the news of the death in prison of Alexei Navalny, unjustly imprisoned by the Putin regime for defending human rights and democracy.”

President of France, Emmanuel Macron stated that “in today’s Russia, free spirits are sent to the Gulag and sentenced to death. I pay tribute to the memory of Alexei Navalny, his dedication, his courage.”

Former Russia’s State Duma deputy, Dmitry Gudkov shared his thoughts, “I cannot believe this. But if everything is confirmed, then Alexei’s death is a murder organized by Putin. Even if Alexei died from “natural” causes, they were caused by his poisoning and further prison torture.  (His) blood is on Putin. One more in addition to the hundreds of thousands killed – also by him – in the war.”

Joe Biden stated that “Putin is responsible for Navalny’s Death”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “This is terrible news. As the most ardent defender of Russian democracy, Alexei Navalny has demonstrated incredible courage throughout his life.”

When after being poisoned Navalny made a decision to return to Russia from his treatment in Germany, he should’ve known that he would be detained and that Putin would make another attempt to break him or take his life. Why did he return? Why didn’t he stay in Germany to lead his democratic political platform from abroad? This is how a journalist Andrei Loshak answered these questions, “Many people wrote throughout these three years: “Why did he return, what kind of idiocy, what kind of senseless self-sacrifice?” It’s just that people don’t understand who Alexey is. And for those who knew him, it was natural. You see him in life and understand this is a person that cannot do otherwise.”

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