Alexeï Navalny: several countries and NGOs call for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death

The team of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny demanded on Saturday that the remains of the Russian opponent be handed over to them “immediately”, after the activist’s mother was formally informed of his death in prison.

Several countries and NGOs call for an independent investigation

In order to shed light on the circumstances of the death of the 47-year-old Russian opponent, several countries and NGOs are calling for the opening of an independent investigation, even if this risks being very complicated: “We must not to be under any illusion. We know very well that Alexeï Navalny’s mother and lawyer went to the morgue last night and were told that the body was not available,” explains Patrick Martin-Genier, specialist in international relations.

According to Russian authorities, Alexei Navalny died of sudden cardiac arrest. But according to Patrick Martin-Genier, “we absolutely cannot trust Vladimir Putin. We will never know or else, there will be an official truth from the Russian authorities which we will have to stick to but which we will not believe not”. He also believes that international leaders will not obtain this investigation because they have “no means of retaliation, of pressure on the regime” of Vladimir Putin.

“Alexeï Navalny was killed,” says the opponent’s mother

The spokesperson indicated in an online video that the opponent’s mother, Lyoudmila Navalnaïa, had gone on Saturday, with a lawyer, to the IK-3 penal colony in the Arctic region of Yamal and that a ” official document” had been given to him confirming the death. “Alexei Navalny was killed,” said Ms. Iarmich, who went into exile, like a crowd of opponents, to escape prison. “His death occurred on February 16 at 2:17 p.m. local time (09:17 GMT), according to the official document given to Alexei’s mother,” she added.

According to her, the deceased’s mother and the lawyer arrived at the prison at 11:00 a.m. Saturday (06:00 GMT), but had to wait two hours before being received. It is not possible to know when his remains will be handed over to his loved ones, nor when and where his burial could take place, while the authorities are on alert and have warned against any gathering.

Russian prison authorities announced Friday, in a terse press release, that the famous activist, imprisoned for three years, had died in the penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence.

The 47-year-old man, whose health was weakened by poisoning and his imprisonment, would have “felt bad after a walk” and would have “lost consciousness”, they explained. They assured that everything had been done to resuscitate him and that the causes of death were “in the process of being established”.

Radio silence from Vladimir Putin

No details have leaked since, and Vladimir Putin has not said a word about the disappearance of this major political personality, a death which also comes one month before the presidential election of March 15-17 which will see the master of Kremlin renews, in the absence of any opposition, which has been decimated by repression, particularly since the start of the Russian assault against Ukraine two years ago.

Western countries, for their part, denounced with one voice the “responsibility” of the Russian regime. American President Joe Biden, “scandalized”, accused his Russian counterpart of being “responsible”. A message hammered home by all Western leaders. So many accusations that the Kremlin judged on Friday “absolutely unacceptable”. But Vladimir Putin remains silent, although he has been informed.

Russia warns people against any demonstrations

An ally of the Kremlin, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, did not wish to comment on this “internal Russian affair”. If the Russian authorities are silent on the circumstances of the death of the opponent and the state media barely mention his death, they have however warned the population against any demonstration.

Despite arrests, like Friday evening, Russians marched in small numbers on Saturday in several cities to lay flowers, particularly on monuments in memory of dissidents who were victims of political repression during the Soviet era. In total, at least 212 people were arrested during rallies in more than a dozen cities, the specialized NGO OVD-Info announced on Saturday.

At midday on Saturday, around fifteen Muscovites were arrested by the police during a gathering at the foot of a monument to the memory of Soviet repression, reported the independent Russian media Sota. Shortly after, AFP journalists witnessed a new arrest there. But at the beginning of the afternoon, onlookers were able, under close police surveillance, to approach the monument again by leaving flowers and messages there. “Don’t give up!”, “We will never forget, we will never surrender, Russia will be free”, could we read on the sheets of paper scattered among the flowers at the foot of the “mourning wall” near the Sakharov Avenue, a traditional place for opposition gatherings and a thoroughfare named after a famous Soviet dissident.

Russian state agencies did not cover these rallies, only reporting some of the official reactions to the death of Alexei Navalny. From Europe to the United States, hundreds of people also gathered Friday evening to pay tribute to the political opponent, as in Warsaw where demonstrators, mostly young and many upset, chanted “Putin, assassin”.

Alexei Navalny, a figure in the opposition to Vladimir Putin

Alexeï Navalny was serving a 19-year prison sentence for “extremism” in a remote penal colony in the Arctic, in very difficult conditions. The trials brought against him were widely denounced as a way of punishing him for his opposition to Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, the opponent participated by video in two hearings before a court in the Vladimir region and did not complain about his health, according to the state news agency Ria Novosti. His mother said she saw her son on Monday “in good health and in a happy mood”, in a Facebook message cited by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. His disappearance deprives an opposition of its figurehead, bloodless after years of repression.

Prison had not dampened Alexeï Navalny’s determination. During his trial hearings and in messages broadcast through his team, he never stopped insulting Vladimir Putin. In his trial for “extremism”, he castigated “the stupidest and most senseless war of the 21st century”, referring to the Russian offensive against Ukraine which began on February 24, 2022. And in a message on February 1 broadcast by his team, the opponent had called for demonstrations throughout Russia during the presidential election.

A number of opponents have been imprisoned or driven into exile in recent years and repression has increased further since 2022. One of the best known is Vladimir Kara-Mourza, poisoned twice, who is serving a 25-year sentence. years of deprivation of liberty. He suffers from serious health problems in detention. Other critics of Mr. Putin have been assassinated, such as Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near the Kremlin in February 2015.

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