Alexei Navalny, Putin’s fiercest foe, dies in prison

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny takes part in a march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on Feb. 29, 2020. Russia's prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny takes part in a march in memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, Russia on Feb. 29, 2020. Russia's prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File) Pavel Golovkin

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with his wife Yulia after his last rally in rain-soaked Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 6, 2013. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with his wife Yulia after his last rally in rain-soaked Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 6, 2013. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File) Evgeny Feldman

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media prior to a court session in Moscow, on Aug. 22, 2019. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media prior to a court session in Moscow, on Aug. 22, 2019. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny prepares to speak to journalists outside a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on March 13, 2013 after his appeal against the country's top investigative agency was rejected. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny prepares to speak to journalists outside a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on March 13, 2013 after his appeal against the country's top investigative agency was rejected. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, and his former colleague Pyotr Ofitserov, foreground, listen to judge in a court in Kirov, Russia, on July 18, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, and his former colleague Pyotr Ofitserov, foreground, listen to judge in a court in Kirov, Russia, on July 18, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File) Dmitry Lovetsky

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, embraces his wife Yulia, as he was released in a courtroom in Kirov, Russia, on July 19, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, embraces his wife Yulia, as he was released in a courtroom in Kirov, Russia, on July 19, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File) Dmitry Lovetsky

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who submitted endorsement papers necessary for his registration as a presidential candidate, center, heads to attend a meeting in the Russia's Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 25, 2017. Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP...

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who submitted endorsement papers necessary for his registration as a presidential candidate, center, heads to attend a meeting in the Russia's Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 25, 2017. Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP... Evgeny Feldman

FILE - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny prepares himself prior his interview with The Associated Press in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 18, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny prepares himself prior his interview with The Associated Press in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 18, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny waves from his office window in Moscow, Russia on April 1, 2010. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny waves from his office window in Moscow, Russia on April 1, 2010. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Alexei Navalny speaks to supporters in Sokolniki park in Moscow, Russia on Aug. 25, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)

FILE - Alexei Navalny speaks to supporters in Sokolniki park in Moscow, Russia on Aug. 25, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File) Evgeny Feldman

FILE - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking during his interview to the Associated Press in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 18, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking during his interview to the Associated Press in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 18, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

This photo taken from video released by Russian Federal Penitentiary Service via SOTAVISION shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears via a video link from the Arctic penal colony in Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, where he is serving a 19-year sentence, in Kovrov, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2024. Shortly after Navalny's death was reported on Friday Feb. 16, 2024, the Russian SOTA social media channel shared images...

This photo taken from video released by Russian Federal Penitentiary Service via SOTAVISION shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears via a video link from the Arctic penal colony in Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, where he is serving a 19-year sentence, in Kovrov, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2024. Shortly after Navalny's death was reported on Friday Feb. 16, 2024, the Russian SOTA social media channel shared images...

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, with his wife Yulia, right, daughter Daria, and son Zakhar pose for the media after voting during a city council election in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 8, 2019. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, with his wife Yulia, right, daughter Daria, and son Zakhar pose for the media after voting during a city council election in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 8, 2019. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov, File) Andrew Lubimov

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a TV screen during a live session with the court during a hearing of his appeal in a court in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2021 with a mural of the Moscow Kremlin in the background. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP...

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a TV screen during a live session with the court during a hearing of his appeal in a court in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2021 with a mural of the Moscow Kremlin in the background. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP... Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 2nd right, addresses supporters and journalists after arriving from Kirov at a railway station in Moscow, Russia on July 20, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 2nd right, addresses supporters and journalists after arriving from Kirov at a railway station in Moscow, Russia on July 20, 2013. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File) Dmitry Lovetsky

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking during his supporters' meeting that nominated him for the presidential election race in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 24, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking during his supporters' meeting that nominated him for the presidential election race in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 24, 2017. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File) Pavel Golovkin

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, poses for press as he sits handcuffed in court in Moscow, Russia on March 30, 2017. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, poses for press as he sits handcuffed in court in Moscow, Russia on March 30, 2017. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo, File) STR

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia talk in a courtroom before the hearing in Moscow, Russia on April 23, 2015. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia talk in a courtroom before the hearing in Moscow, Russia on April 23, 2015. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File) Pavel Golovkin

FILE - A view of the entrance of the prison colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - A view of the entrance of the prison colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenetsk region about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Alexei Navalny is seen behind the bars in the police van after he was detained during protests in Moscow, on May 8, 2012 a day after Putin's inauguration. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File)

FILE - Alexei Navalny is seen behind the bars in the police van after he was detained during protests in Moscow, on May 8, 2012 a day after Putin's inauguration. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File) Sergey Ponomarev

FILE - Police officers detain Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left, in Moscow on July 10, 2013. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Police officers detain Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left, in Moscow on July 10, 2013. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) Alexander Zemlianichenko

FILE - Police officers detain opposition leader Alexei Navalny during an unauthorized rally in Lubyanka Square in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 15, 2012. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

FILE - Police officers detain opposition leader Alexei Navalny during an unauthorized rally in Lubyanka Square in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 15, 2012. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File) Pavel Golovkin

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2018. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)

FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2018. Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison Friday Feb. 16, 2024 Russia’s prison agency said. He was 47. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File) Evgeny Feldman

By JIM HEINTZ, DASHA LITVINOVA and EMMA BURROWS

Associated Press

Published: 02-16-2024 2:19 PM

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 directed at the Kremlin leader who has cracked down on all opposition at home.

In Moscow and other Russian cities, people laid flowers at monuments to victims of Soviet-era repression, but there was no immediate indication Navalny’s death would spark large protests, given that the opposition is already fractured and beleaguered. His death will deal it another heavy blow.

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 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow. An ambulance arrived but he could not be revived; the cause of death is “being established,” it said.

Navalny had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow to face certain arrest after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Since then, he was convicted three times, and rejected each case as 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 world leaders had gathered, and said she had considered canceling her appearance.

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

Article continues after...

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“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.”

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 for his death — particularly after the deaths of many Kremlin opponents.

U.S. 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 instead returned to Russia to “continue his work,” despite knowing he could be imprisoned or killed “because he believe so deeply in his country, in Russa.”

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.