Alexei Navalny Dies in Prison

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Feb. 27, 2015
Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Alexei Navalny Dies in Prison

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny died today, prison authorities announced. Interned in an Arctic penal colony, Navalny was on a walk when he, according to authorities, “fell ill” and then “almost immediately lost consciousness.” Reportedly, a medical team was called to resuscitate him but failed.

His main legal counsel told Russian media he looked “fine” when a lawyer visited him Wednesday. The Russian government claims it has “no information” on what happened to Navalny.

Assassinated? One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest gadflies, Navalny was a former presidential candidate and human rights activist.

Russian agents tried to assassinate him in 2020 with the Novichok synthetic nerve agent. Putin allowed Navalny to go to Germany for treatment, but after he recovered and returned to Russia in 2021, Navalny was arrested.

Absent more evidence, we cannot know the exact circumstances of his death. But being held in harsh conditions in a Siberian penal colony surely didn’t help him.

Even if Alexei died of “natural” causes, they were caused by his poisoning and further torture in prison.
—Dmitry Gudkov, Russian dissident

What’s next for Putin? Russia is holding presidential elections next month. Nobody expects Putin to cut his strongman-for-life rule short by allowing a free and fair election. But Navalny’s death demonstrates how much the rule of law has eroded in Russia under Putin. We can expect the nation to become even more dictatorial in the future.

To learn more, read our Trends article “Why the Trumpet Watches a Russian Strongman Dominating Asia.”