February 16, 2024 - 16:06 AMT
Russian activist and Putin critic Alexei Navalny dies in prison

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in jail, the country’s prison service has dead, in what is likely to be seen as a political assassination attributable to Vladimir Putin, The Guardian reports.

Navalny, 47, one of Putin’s most visible and persistent critics, was being held in a jail about 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle where he had been sentenced to 19 years under a “special regime”.

In early December he had disappeared from a prison in the Vladimir region, where he was serving a 30-year sentence on extremism and fraud charges that he had called political retribution for leading the anti-Kremlin opposition of the 2010s. He did not expect to be released during Putin’s lifetime.

A former nationalist politician, Navalny helped foment the 2011-12 protests in Russia by campaigning against election fraud and government corruption, investigating Putin’s inner circle and sharing the findings in slick videos that garnered hundreds of millions of views.

The high-water mark in his political career came in 2013, when he won 27% of the vote in a Moscow mayoral contest that few believed was free or fair. He remained a thorn in the side of the Kremlin for years, identifying a palace built on the Black Sea for Putin’s personal use, mansions and yachts used by the ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, and a sex worker who linked a top foreign policy official with a well-known oligarch.

In 2020, Navalny fell into a coma after a suspected poisoning using novichok by Russia’s FSB security service and was evacuated to Germany for treatment. He recovered and returned to Russia in January 2021, where he was arrested on a parole violation charge and sentenced to his first of several jail terms that would total more than 30 years behind bars.

Putin has recently launched a presidential campaign for his fifth term in office. He is already the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin and could surpass him if he runs again for office in 2030, a possibility since he had the constitutional rules on term limits rewritten in 2020.