What we know about Alexei Navalny’s death in Arctic Circle prison

Alexei Navalny
Image caption,Navalny with his wife, before flying back to Russia and certain arrest after recovering from novichok poisoning

Days after the death of Alexei Navalny was first reported, details about what happened to him remain scarce.

According to Russian accounts, the 47-year-old took a short walk at his Siberian penal colony, said he felt unwell, then collapsed and never regained consciousness.

On Saturday, Navalny’s family confirmed that the political activist died at 14:17 local time (09:17 GMT) on Friday 16 February.

The authorities at the prison where he was held said he suffered “sudden death syndrome”, his team reported. It is not clear if an autopsy has been performed yet on his body.

It is also not clear where his body is. Navalny’s mother Lyudmila, who arrived in the area on Saturday, has now visited the mortuary in the town of Salekhard near the prison, where she was told his body had been taken.

A spokesperson for the politician, Kira Yarmysh, said Lyudmila was not allowed inside the facility and that her son’s lawyer was pushed out of the building. The staff did not confirm whether his body was there.

According to Ms Yarmysh, an investigation by a Russian committee into the death has been extended indefinitely.

She had already been told by officials that Navalny’s body would not be handed over until this was completed.

Ms Yarmysh later said that investigators had told Lyudmila they would not hand over the body for two weeks while they conducted a “chemical analysis”.

Opposition leader appeared in good health before death

Navalny’s condition had deteriorated in his three years in prison, where he complained of being denied medical treatment and had spent almost 300 days in solitary confinement. By the time of his arrest in January 2021, he had spent months recovering from a nerve agent attack.

Even so, he appeared to be in relatively good spirits and health in a court video a day before his death.

The weight of international opinion does not appear to tally with Russia’s account of what happened to him at IK-3, or “Polar Wolf” – one of Russia’s northernmost and toughest prisons.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said Navalny “paid with his life” for his “resistance to Russian oppression”, adding that his death was a reminder of the “reality of Vladimir Putin’s regime”.

Navalny’s mother said her son was “alive, healthy and happy” when she last saw him on 12 February, in a Facebook post quoted by Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

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