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Navalny’s spokeswoman confirms his death and demands body returned to family

The team of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have confirmed his death, a day after the Russian prison service claimed he had died in a remote penal colony.

Mr Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence at an Arctic prison, where Russian authorities said he had abruptly “felt unwell” and “immediately lost consciousness” after going for a walk.

The 47-year-old opposition leader had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Since then, he received three prison sentences, all of which he rejected as politically motivated.

Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh confirmed on Saturday morning the 47-year-old’s death, citing an official notice given to his mother, Lydumila.

Ms Yarmysh, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, demanded that Mr Navalny’s body be immediately handed over to his family.

“Alexei Navalny was murdered. His death occurred on 16 February at 2.17 p.m. local time, according to the official message to Alexei’s mother,” she wrote.

“An employee of the colony said that the body of Navalny is now in Salekhard. It was picked up by investigators from the IC. Now they are conducting ‘investigations’ with him. We demand that Alexei Navalny’s body be handed over to his family immediately.”

Supporters of the late Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny hold banners and place candles around a makeshift memorial (Photo: Marques/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Supporters of the late Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny hold banners and place candles around a makeshift memorial (Photo: Marques/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia, had previously said she did not know whether to believe if her husband has died.

The prison service claimed that Mr Nalvany had taken unwell following a walk and that efforts to save him were unsuccessful.

“All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out but did not yield positive results,” the statement said. “The paramedics confirmed the death of the convict.”

The Kremlin said Putin had been informed but had no further information.

His death has drawn strong condemnation from world leaders and triggered protests at Russian embassies globally.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that Putin should be held accountable for his treatment of Mr Nalvany, and summoned the Russian embassy staff.

“Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” US President Joe Biden said in remarks from the White House on Friday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday morning accused Putin of “murdering” his opponent – and warned that it was a threat to the entire West.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, called the remarks from Western leaders “absolutely outrageous and absolutely unacceptable”.

More than 100 people in Russia were arrested as they mourned Mr Navalny.

Videos shared on social media showed skirmishes between police and mourners, officers ripping placards and dragging others away from make-shift memorials in Moscow and St Petersburg.

One mourner in Moscow told AFP News Agency: “Of course, Navalny was a symbol, first of all a symbol of opposition, a symbol of hope for some brighter future for Russia. There’s a feeling that with his death, this hope dies.”

This story is being updated.

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