Antelope Valley Press

Navalny, Putin’s fiercest foe, dead


Alexei Navalny, who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests as President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, died Friday in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence, Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47.

The stunning news — less than a month before an election that will give Putin another six years in power — brought renewed criticism and outrage from world leaders toward the Russian president who has suppressed opposition at home.

After initially allowing people to lay flowers at monuments to victims of Soviet-era repression­s in several Russian cities, police sealed off some of the areas and started making arrests.

About 30 were detained in St. Petersburg, according to local media. Shouts of “Shame!” were heard as Moscow police rounded up more than a dozen people — including one with a sign reading “Killer” — near a memorial to political prisoners, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group. The group said arrests occurred in several other cities.

But there was no indication Navalny’s death would spark large protests, with the opposition fractured and now without its “guiding star,” as an associate put it.

Russia’s Federal Penitentia­ry Service reported Navalny felt sick after a walk Friday and lost consciousn­ess at the penal colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow. An ambulance arrived but he couldn’t be revived; the cause of death is “being establishe­d,” it said.

Navalny had been jailed since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperati­ng in Germany from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. He was later convicted three times, saying each case was politicall­y motivated.

After the last verdict, Navalny said he understood he was “serving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”

Hours after his death was reported, Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, made a dramatic appearance at a security conference in Germany where many leaders had gathered.

She said she had considered canceling, “but then I thought what Alexei would do in my place. And I’m sure he would be here,” adding she was unsure if she could believe the news from official Russian sources.

“But if this is true, I want Putin and everyone around Putin, Putin’s friends, his government to know that they will bear responsibi­lity for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband. And this day will come very soon,” Navalnaya said.

Praise for Navalny’s bravery poured in from Western leaders and others opposing Putin. Navalny’s health has deteriorat­ed recently and the cause of death may never be known, but many of them said they held Russian authoritie­s ultimately responsibl­e — particular­ly after the deaths of many Kremlin foes.

US President Joe Biden said Washington doesn’t know exactly what happened, “but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequenc­e of something Putin and his thugs did.”

Navalny “could have lived safely in exile” but returned home despite knowing he could be imprisoned or killed “because he believed so deeply in his country, in Russia.”

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Navalny “has probably now paid for this courage with his life.”

Standing beside Scholz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — whose country is fending off Russia’s invasion — said: “Putin doesn’t care who dies in order for him to hold onto his position.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was told of Navalny’s death. The opposition leader’s spokeswoma­n, Kira Yarmysh, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the team had no confirmati­on yet.

Russia’s main state TV channel interrupte­d its newscast to announce the death, while other broadcaste­rs carried only terse reports.

The Russian SOTA social media channel shared video of Navalny — reportedly in a prison courtroom on Thursday — laughing and joking with the judge via video link on one of several hearings about conditions in jail.

Navalny was moved in December from a central Russia penal colony to the “special regime” facility — the maximum security level. His allies decried the transfer to the remote Arctic colony as yet another attempt to isolate and silence Navalny.

Before his arrest, Navalny campaigned against official corruption, organized major anti-Kremlin protests and ran for public office.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES ?? Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media on Aug. 22, 2019, prior to a court session in Moscow.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media on Aug. 22, 2019, prior to a court session in Moscow.

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