Romain Rouillard / Photo credit: YING TANG / NURPHOTO / NURPHOTO VIA AFP 5:37 p.m., February 19, 2024

The death of Alexei Navalny, announced Friday by Russian press agencies, remains shrouded in mystery. Particularly regarding the causes of the death of the Russian opponent but also around the location of his body. The Kremlin is content to repeat over and over again that an investigation is “ongoing”.  

Alexei Navalny is dead. For the rest, it is difficult to extract further information from the Russian authorities about the disappearance of the 47-year-old Russian opponent. Enemy number 1 of Vladimir Putin on the country's political scene, he was serving a 19-year prison sentence for "extremism" in a penal colony in Siberia. And this, a few years after being poisoned with Novichok, a powerful nerve agent developed during the Soviet Union. An act that Alexeï Navalny has always blamed on the Kremlin but which did not prevent him from returning to Russia, after convalescence in Germany. He was directly arrested upon his arrival at Moscow airport.  

The body located in a Siberian hospital?

On Friday, the Russian Prison Service (FSIN) announced his death but, three days later, his family has still not had access to his body, the location of which constitutes one of the main question marks surrounding his death. On the death notice given to Lyudmila Navalnaïa, the mother of Alexei Navalny, it was indicated that the remains of her son, first transferred to the Labytnangi hospital, were in the Salekhard morgue, located approximately 50km from the prison where he was serving his sentence. 



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The person concerned therefore decided to go there before receiving contradictory information from the morgue employees, certifying that the body of Alexeï Navalny was not lying there. Same scenario this Monday morning, according to Kira Iarmich, spokesperson for the opponent. "Alexei's mother and her lawyers arrived at the morgue early this morning. They were not allowed in. One of the lawyers was literally pushed out," she said on X (ex-Twitter). 

For its part, the opposition media Novaya Gazeta assured this morning that Navalny's body was located at the Salekhard district hospital. For its part, the Kremlin justifies this confiscation of the body of Putin's sworn enemy by an "ongoing investigation" which has "so far" not produced results. According to the opponent's team, investigators plan to examine his body for at least "14 days." 

According to Evgeni Smirnov, a lawyer from the specialized NGO Pervy Otdel, investigators can legally keep the body of a person who died in prison for up to 30 days. “The cause of death is still 'undetermined'. They lie, play for time and don't even hide it,” criticized Kira Iarmich.

A “sudden death syndrome”

The reasons for the death of Alexeï Navalny constitute precisely the other great mystery which hovers around this affair. His health was at the center of all concerns, particularly due to the sometimes harsh conditions of detention with which he had to put up. “There have already been worrying details and signals about Navalny for several months. In particular about his state of health, for which he did not receive treatment. He had not had a medical examination either,” explained to us , last December, Carole Grimaud, geopolitical analyst and Russia specialist. 

At this stage, however, it is impossible to establish a link between the harshness of his detention and his death, about which the authorities are evasive, to say the least. According to the Russian Prison Service (FSIN), Alexeï Navalny died after feeling unwell after a walk. One official even mentioned a “sudden death syndrome”, while the official media reported a thrombosis. 



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“All necessary resuscitation procedures were carried out, but did not give positive results. Emergency doctors noted the death of the patient,” the FSIN of the Arctic region of Iamal said in a press release. "I can say that the injuries described by those who saw them appeared to be from convulsions. If a person has convulsions and others try to hold them but the convulsions are very strong, then bruising appears," adds one paramedic interviewed by Novaia Gazeta, according to whom Alexeï Navalny died of cardiac arrest, the cause of which remains desperately unknown. 

So far, Vladimir Putin has not made any comments on the death of his main political rival. However, many international leaders did not hesitate to accuse Moscow of being directly involved in the death of Alexei Navalny. “In the absence of information, we believe that it is absolutely not permissible to make such odious statements,” the Kremlin responded on Monday.