Who was Alexei Navalny and what did he say about Russia, Putin and death? By Reuters

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny pays tribute to the founder of Russia’s oldest human rights group and Sakharov Prize winner Lyudmila Alexeyeva in Moscow, Russia, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Alexei Navalny, Russia’s top opposition leader, died on Friday after collapsing and losing consciousness in the penal colony north of the Arctic Circle where he was serving a long prison sentence, the Russian prison service said .


Navalny, 47, has become the leading figure of Russia’s fragmented opposition.

Supporters see him as a Russian version of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who would one day be freed from prison to lead the country.

He earned the admiration of many Russian opposition circles for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he underwent treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia .


A former lawyer, Navalny rose to fame with blogs exposing what he said was vast corruption among the Russian elite, describing Russia as run by “swindlers and thieves.”

He participated in Russian nationalist marches in the 2000s. Calls for immigration restrictions and criticism of what some considered his overly nationalist views led to his expulsion from the liberal opposition Yabloko party in 2007.

He mocked President Vladimir Putin’s elite and highlighted some of the opulence of top officials’ lifestyles, using the Internet and even drones to illustrate what he described as their vast estates and luxury properties.

When anti-Putin demonstrations broke out in December 2011, after an election marred by allegations of fraud, he was one of the first protest leaders arrested.

Navalny has long predicted that Russia could face seismic political unrest, including revolution, because he has said Putin has built a fragile system of personal rule based on servility and corruption.


The Kremlin said Putin had been informed of his death.

The Kremlin has rejected Navalny’s accusations of extensive corruption and Putin’s personal wealth. Navalny’s movement is outlawed and most of his senior allies have fled Russia and now live in Europe.

Russian officials have called Navalny an extremist, a puppet of the US intelligence agency CIA, which they say is intent on trying to sow the seeds of revolution to weaken Russia and make it a client state of the West.

Navalny has been arrested countless times for organizing public demonstrations and repeatedly prosecuted on charges including bribery, embezzlement and fraud. He said the charges and convictions were politically motivated.

Navalny had an additional 19 years in a maximum-security penal colony added to his prison sentence in 2023 in a criminal case that he said was designed to intimidate the Russian people into political submission.


In August 2020, Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow. The pilot made an emergency landing, saving his life, and Navalny was flown to Berlin, where he was treated for the effects of a neurotoxin that German military tests showed to be Novichok, a poison developed in the Soviet Union.

Putin rejected a joint media investigation that a hit squad from Russia’s FSB security service had been identified. “If anyone had wanted to poison him, they would have killed him,” he said.


Navalny’s wife is Yulia. Their daughter is called Darya and their son is called Zakhar.



“This is a stupid war that your Putin started,” Navalny told the Moscow appeals court via video link from a correctional penal colony in 2022. “This war was built on lies.”

“A madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I don’t know what he wants to do with it: this mad thief.”


“Corruption is the foundation of contemporary Russia, it is the foundation of Putin’s political power,” Navalny told Reuters in an interview in 2011.


“The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once described the power structure in Russia: ‘the scoundrels who robbed their own people have gathered together, recruited soldiers and judges to guard their orgy, and now they are having a party.’ This phrase brilliant is precisely describes what is happening in our country.”

In 2023, he admonished the Russian elite for its venality, expressing hatred for those who he said had squandered a historic opportunity to reform after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He analyzed Russia’s post-Soviet history, including the legacies of the most powerful figures of the 1990s who became known as the reformers who sought to lay the foundations of capitalism and the oligarchs who won fabulous fortunes.

“I cannot help myself from fiercely and savagely hating those who sold, wasted and squandered the historical opportunity that our country had in the early nineties,” Navalny said.


“Why should I be afraid?” he said in 2011 when asked about the dangers of challenging the Kremlin.

Asked by Reuters about his ambitions, he flinched but said: “I would like to be president, but there are no elections in Russia.”


“If they decide to kill me it means we are incredibly strong and we have to use that power and not give up,” he once told CNN. “We don’t realize how strong we actually are.”

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