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Alexei Navalny PA

Russian ambassador to Ireland says accusations that Navalny was killed are 'unacceptable'

Who was Alexei Navalny, the Russian democracy activist whose death was announced today?


RUSSIA’S AMBASSADOR TO Ireland has said that claims that opposition leader Alexei Navalny was killed in a Russian prison colony are “absolutely unacceptable”. 

On RTÉ’s Drivetime radio programme this evening, Yuri Filatov said that people need to wait for the full “facts” to emerge before jumping to conclusions about the activist’s death. 

Yesterday, Filatov was summoned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which expressed “outrage” over Navalny’s death. 

The ambassador said that he had a “frank and candid” conversation about officials, during which he reassured them that the investigation into Navalny’s death will be fully impartial. 

He lambasted speculation about the nature of Navalny’s death as “simply undignified”. 

“There is nothing here in terms of a cover-up”,  the ambassador said. 

Tributes to political activist

Navalny’s death has drawn tributes from leaders of democracies around the world, praising Navalny for his unyielding commitment to fighting for Russian democracy.

Navalny, who survived a poisoning attack in 2020, has died in an Arctic prison at the age of 47, according to Russia’s penitentiary service. 

Before he was imprisoned, Navalny spent years advocating for democracy and pushing back against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

In 2007, Navalny began buying shares in state-owned oil giants to access company reports and search them for evidence of corruption, which he documented on his blog. The same year, he was excluded from the liberal opposition party Yabloko for taking part in “nationalist activities”.

He established the Anti-Corruption Foundation in December 2011, which gained a large following with exposés about the vast riches amassed by Kremlin elites.

In the winter of 2011 to 2012, he led huge protests after Putin’s United Russia party won parliamentary elections in a vote marred by allegations of fraud.

A few years later, in July 2013, he was convicted of embezzlement on what he called a politically motivated prosecution and was sentenced to five years in prison. However, the prosecutor’s office later, surprisingly, demanded his release pending appeal. A higher court later gave him a suspended sentence.

The day before the sentence, Navalny had registered as a candidate for Moscow mayor.

The opposition saw his release as the result of large protests in the capital of his sentence but many observers attributed it to a desire by authorities to add a tinge of legitimacy to the mayoral election.

That September, he came second in the election for mayor of Moscow, losing to Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. Navalny called for a recount but was dismissed.

moscow-russia-september-20-2015-politician-alexei-navalny-speaking-at-the-opposition-rally-a-russian-opposition-rally-for-democracy-moscow-city-area-marino-credit-oleg-kozyrevalamy-live-news Navalny speaking at a rally for democracy in Moscow in 2015 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In March 2017, Navalny’s video about the lavish lifestyle of then-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, which included a claim that one of his estates had a duck house in the middle of a pond, sparked rallies.

In December 2018, he was blocked from running for president against Putin because of his embezzlement conviction. He urged Russians to boycott the vote, which ultimately Putin secure a fourth term.

Navalny was hospitalised on 20 August 2020 in Siberia and placed in a medically induced coma after losing consciousness during a flight.

He was transferred to a hospital in Berlin, where tests showed he was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.

He accused Putin of being behind his poisoning, which the Kremlin denied.

vladivostok-russia-september-9-2018-a-political-action-against-raising-the-retirement-age-organized-by-alexei-navalny A protest organised by Navalny in 2018 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Navalny returned to Moscow in January 2021 and was detained shortly after landing at the airport.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Russia for his release, but in February, he was handed a two-and-a-half-year sentence for breaching the conditions of a suspended sentence while recuperating in Germany, and sent to a penal colony.

Amnesty International named Navalny a prisoner of conscience in 2021, which it defines as a “person who has been deprived of their liberty solely because of their conscientiously held beliefs” or other discriminatory reasons.

In August 2023, his sentence was increased to nine years after a conviction on new charges of embezzlement and contempt of court. 

He was then sentenced to an additional 19 years at a harsher “special regime” facility on charges of “extremism”. 

His allies decried the transfer to the colony in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,200 miles north-east of Moscow, as yet another attempt to force Navalny into silence.

Kharp is about 60 miles from Vorkuta, whose coal mines were part of the Soviet gulag prison-camp system.

Navalny went missing for over two weeks in December 2023, before being located in a remote penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

Today, Russia’s federal penitentiary service released a statement saying that he has died at the Arctic prison colony. The statement said Navalny lost consciousness after going for a walk and could not be revived by medics and that the “causes of death are being established”.

Whenever Putin spoke about Navalny, he made it a point to never mention the activist by name, referring to him as “that person” or similar wording, in an apparent effort to diminish his importance.

However, the activist has been strongly lauded and remembered today by political figures around the world. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris has described his death as a “sign of Putin’s brutality”, while the UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that Putin should be held accountable.

European Council President Charles Michel said that Navalny “Navalny fought for the values of freedom and democracy” and that “for his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice”.

Michel said the EU holds the Russian regime “responsible for this tragic death” .

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland and Press Association

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