Alexei Navalny Found Bruised in a Morgue

( – With less than a month to go until Russia’s presidential election, the country’s leading opposition politician has died in a labor camp. Alexei Navalny had been imprisoned for over three years amid widespread claims that President Vladimir Putin was using the legal system to prevent him from running for election. Now his supporters, and Western governments, are calling for justice.

In December, Navalny, who had been sentenced to over 30 years after a series of trials widely labeled a “sham,” disappeared from the penal colony near Moscow where he’d been held. Three weeks later he reappeared in a different one — the notoriously brutal IK-3 camp near the city of Kharp, well above the Arctic Circle. This is a maximum security camp usually used to house rapists and murderers — it has the ominous nickname “Polar Wolf.”

On February 16, the Russian prison service announced that Navalny had died in Polar Wolf. According to officials, Navalny lost consciousness after taking a walk — Polar Wolf inmates are not generally allowed to “take a walk” — and, despite attempts to resuscitate him, died. Two days later his body was located in a Kharp hospital, with bruising on his head and chest. A Russian paramedic claimed this bruising was the result of a seizure and the resuscitation attempts.

Navalny’s widow Yulia, however, doesn’t believe this version of events. She thinks her husband was killed with the Novichok nerve agent, a favorite assassination tool of the Putin regime. In fact, Navalny had already been poisoned before. In 2020 he suddenly fell ill and was evacuated to a hospital in Berlin; German doctors said traces of Novichok were found in his system.

Now his family says the Russian government is delaying an autopsy until the nerve agent breaks down and can’t be detected. Navalny’s death is sure to cast a new cloud over the March 15 presidential election — which Putin, with all leading opposition candidates in prison or dead, looks sure to win.

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