Russia has yet to establish the official cause of Navalny’s death, Reuters spokesperson says

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a hearing at the Lublinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

By Guy Faulconbridge and Filipp Lebedev

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian investigators have yet to determine the official cause of death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his spokesman said on Monday, after prison authorities said he died suddenly after a walk in the “Wolf” penal colony Polar”.

The death of Navalny, a former lawyer, deprives Russia’s disparate opposition of its most charismatic and courageous leader as President Vladimir Putin prepares for elections that will keep him in power until at least 2030.

Supporters of the West and Navalny rejected on Friday the Russian prison service’s statement that the 47-year-old had lost consciousness and died. Western leaders have considered Putin a killer and said he was responsible for Navalny’s death.

Putin made no public comment, but Russian officials chastised Western leaders for rushing to conclusions about the death, which further deepened the schism in relations between Moscow and the West caused by the war in Ukraine.

In the prison colony on Saturday, Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, was told that her son had died from “sudden death syndrome,” a vague term for several heart conditions that lead to death, according to Navalny’s team.

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said his mother, 69, and his lawyers had been informed that the official verification of the cause of death had been extended and that it was unclear how long it would take.

“The cause of death is ‘undetermined,'” said Yarmysh, who accused Russian authorities of lying and stalling.

His mother and lawyers were not allowed into the Arctic city morgue on Monday near the prison colony where authorities said the man died, Yarmysh said.

“When asked whether Alexei’s body was there, the staff did not answer,” Yarmysh said.

Navalny had been incarcerated in the IK-3 penal colony north of the Arctic Circle located in Kharp in the Yamal®-Nenets region approximately 1,900 km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

Just the day before his death, Navalny was shown joking in court via a video link to the court. He mocked the judge, suggesting he use part of his vast salary to top up Navalny’s account.


Navalny’s death came just as Russian forces made their biggest advance in Ukraine’s war since May 2023 and as the West debates how much further support to give Kiev after last year’s counteroffensive failed to break through its Russian lines.

US President Joe Biden on Friday blamed Putin for Navalny’s death and warned there could be consequences.

However, it is unclear what more the West can do after imposing on Russia what it says are already the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy over the war in Ukraine. The Russian economy grew by 3.6% in 2023.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reaction of Western leaders to Navalny’s death was “absolutely angry.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the reaction of the West and its media demonstrated “their hypocrisy, cynicism and unscrupulousness.”

“In every situation, the script is always: ‘blame Russia,’” Zakharova said.

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