What happened to Alexei Navalny? All the mysteries and inconsistencies about his death

Elizabeth Smith

How did Alexei Navalny die? The mystery remains very thick, while groups of human rights activists have announced that 300 Russians have been arrested for having paid homage to Vladimir Putin’s main opponent.

Western governments say the blame for Navalny’s “sudden death” lies with Russian authorities, while G7 foreign ministers have called on Russia to “urgently clarify” the circumstances surrounding it.

Putin has not commented publicly since the Russian prison service announced that Navalny had died at the remote IK-3 prison in the Arctic on February 16.

The “sudden death” of Alexei Navalny

Navalny’s mother was told that he died of “sudden death syndrome”. A broad, vague term for a condition that causes sudden death from cardiac arrest with no apparent cause. Within 24 hours, since the first news about the death began to circulate, more or less official sources have proposed a series of versions and causes.

From general illness to embolism, from thrombosis to sudden death syndrome, definition generic which refers to heart diseases, sometimes unknown, which cause ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest in the victim.

The woman was also told that her son’s body had been taken to the town of Salekhard, near the prison complex. But when she arrived at her location the morgue was closed.

Prison officials reportedly told her that an initial post-mortem examination was inconclusive and that a second one would need to be performed. The 47-year-old’s collaborators believe that the body is being purposely retained by the Russian authorities to “cover the tracks” and demand that the body be returned to his family “immediately”.

Until the day before his death “Navalny was fine”

Navalny’s health conditions had worsened during three years in prison, where he complained of not receiving medical care and spent almost 300 days in solitary confinement. At the time of his arrest in January 2021 he had spent months recovering from a nerve agent attack.

But despite it all, he appeared to be in relatively good spirits and health in a court video from just a day before his death. His mother, Lyudmila, said her son was “alive, healthy and happy” when she last saw him on February 12.

At just 47, Navalny was obviously not “old”. But being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and spending three weeks in a coma had had consequences. Living a life of constant deprivation in prison has only added to his problems.

In 2023, more than 500 Russian doctors signed an open letter asking to have him examined by a “civilian” doctor, not one from the prison administration, after he said he had a persistent cough and fever and had to share a cell with a prisoner suffering from tuberculosis.

The walk at minus 30 degrees

The first statement from Jamal’s Federal Penitentiary Service claimed that Navalny felt ill “after a walk” and that he lost consciousness “almost immediately. He died after thirty minutes of resuscitation attempts.”

It was due to a blood clot, the government media wrote. The most common cause of death in prison. And the most difficult to prove. But even on the “minus 30” walk there are no certainties.

Only recently had he been allowed a daily walk to a nearby cell where the floor was covered in snow. All he could see outside his cell window, otherwise, was a high fence and no lights. In winter, beyond the Arctic Circle, in the brightest hours it is always just twilight.

The date and time of death are unclear

There is no certainty even about the true date and time of death. The news of the death, which officially occurred on the morning of Friday 16 February, was made known in the early afternoon.

Elements collected by independent media, however, suggest that the death occurred in the night between Thursday and Friday: a difference of about ten hours. Why did the communication arrive so late?

Did Alexei Navalny really fall ill during a walk? There are those who maintain that in that case the death should have occurred in the morning, and not after 2 pm as written in the reports. For one reason: in that prison 100 kilometers from Vorkuta, prisoners under special detention regime like Navalny are allowed to walk for their hour of exercise in a narrow concrete courtyard alone at 6 in the morning.

The end of Navalny “was written” by January 2021

According to many experts and analysts, Navalny’s end was “written” in January 2021 when he returned to Russia, six months after being poisoned with Novicho.

He had previously been taken away from his country in a coma, and was miraculously recovered in Germany. He could have lived there forever and been the leader of the opposition in a golden exile.

Instead he returned, knowing that he would most likely be arrested and that he could pay with his life. He was very clear that only in this way, in his Russia, would he continue to have credit and weight.

Read also: Russia, who will challenge Putin in the March elections?

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