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Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics says Putin opponent Navalny “brutally murdered by Kremlin”

Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics was the first world leader to comment on reports of Alexei Navalny's death, blaming the Russian authorities for the murder.

“Whatever you think of Alexei Navalny as a politician, he has just been brutally murdered by the Kremlin. This is a fact, and it's something everyone should know about the true nature of the current Russian regime. My condolences to his family and friends,” Rinkevich wrote.

The European Union holds Russia responsible for the death of Navalny, according to a statement by EU Council president Charles Michel, who said in a post on X:

Alexei Navalny fought for the values of freedom and democracy. For his ideals, he made the ultimate sacrifice. The EU holds the Russian regime solely responsible for this tragic death.

The Russian authorities had the following to say about the reports.

In a post on Telegram, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote:

“The forensic medical examination is not yet available, but the West has already prepared its conclusions [that the Russian authorities are to blame for the politician's death].”

While Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, said that “these things happen”:

“Russia had no sense to harm Navalny's health in any way, absolutely none. The man was serving a sentence that still had several years to go. I think it was an accident, these things happen.”

On February 16, the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District reported Navalny's death in the IK-3 prison in the settlement of Kharp. The report claimed that the opposition politician allegedly felt unwell after a walk and died soon after.

On February 14 — two days prior to the incident — the politician's press secretary Kira Yarmysh reported that Navalny had been sent to a punishment cell (SHIZO) for the 27th time since his incarceration.

Eva Merkacheva, a member of the Moscow PMC, linked the death of Alexei Navalny to his permanent placement in the SHIZO, according to a report by Mediazona. He spent a total of 308 days in a punitive isolation cell at the time of his reported death.

“I believe that [this could have occurred] unequivocally due to [Navalny’s] endless trips to the SHIZO. That is, he was there once, once, twice, three times, and the number of times he was kept in a punishment cell was counted by dozens. A SHIZO has very harsh conditions of confinement. [...] People freeze there most and most often starve. That's why there are strict requirements that you can't assign it more than a certain number of days.
But there were no restrictions on the number of placements in the SHIZO itself. That is, when one term ends, a person is put back in his cell, immediately he is summoned to a new commission, told that he has a new offense, and on the same day he is sent back to the SHIZO. This is monstrous, you know?” — she said in a comment to MSK1.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Vladimir Putin had been informed of Navalny's death.

One of Navalny’s close aides Leonid Volkov, who until recently headed the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), said that Team Navalny current has no way to confirm — or deny — the politician's death:

“Russian authorities publish a confession that they killed Alexey Navalny in prison. We do not have any way to confirm it or prove this isn’t true. Navalny’s lawyer is on the way to Harp,” Volkov wrote.

At the time of his reported death, the politician was serving a 19-year sentence in IK-3 (“Polar Wolf”) — a penal colony in Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets Region, located approximately 1,900 km (1200 miles) northeast of Moscow. Polar Wolf is considered to be one of Russia’s harshest prisons. IK-3 is a special regime colony above the Arctic Circle, located in the permafrost zone. Accessing the prison is very difficult and there are systematic reports of abuse and torture at the facility from former and current prisoners. A former inmate described the location of the prison as the “edge of all life.”

More about Navalny’s penal colony can be found in The Insider’s recent report.

Prior to being arrested in January 2021, Navalny exposed official corruption and led major anti-Kremlin protests across Russia. After recovering from nerve agent poisoning in Germany, executed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), he returned to Moscow, and was arrested by police officers at passport control at Sheremetyevo Airport.

A joint investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider and CNN, with contributions from Der Spiegel, published in December 2020, revealed the names and ranks of the FSB officers responsible for poisoning Alexei Navalny with the Novichok nerve agent.

On August 4, 2023, the Moscow City Court sentenced Navalny to 19 years in a “special regime” penal colony after finding him guilty of financing extremism, the creation of an extremist community, and inciting extremism.

In early December, Navalny said he had been informed of new criminal charges against him. The charges, which fall under Article 214 of the Russian Criminal Code (“vandalism motivated by hatred”) carry a punishment of the restriction of freedom for up to three years, compulsory labour for up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period.

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