Dead Kremlin opponent: The mystery surrounding Alexei Navalny's cause of death - and why it could remain unsolved for a long time

How did Alexei Navalny die? The answer to this question is of interest not only to the Kremlin critic's relatives and supporters; international politics are also waiting for a conclusive explanation from the Russian authorities.

Dead Kremlin opponent: The mystery surrounding Alexei Navalny's cause of death - and why it could remain unsolved for a long time

How did Alexei Navalny die? The answer to this question is of interest not only to the Kremlin critic's relatives and supporters; international politics are also waiting for a conclusive explanation from the Russian authorities. However, it is uncertain whether this will ever happen.

Even three days after the 47-year-old's death, there is nothing in Putin's vast empire to indicate that there will be transparent and independent investigations into the case. The Russian authorities are keeping their hand on the case, and only limited and hardly reliable information is made public. It is fitting that for around two days it was not known where Navalny's body was.

From his prison camp in Charp, Siberia, it was said that the body was taken to Salekhard, around 50 kilometers away. Nothing was known about this in the morgue there, Navalny's mother and a lawyer were brushed off (you can read what they experienced on site here). It was only on Sunday that the Kremlin-critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta found out in a roundabout way that the body was supposed to be in the Salekhard district hospital, but an autopsy had not yet taken place. How credible the results of such an investigation would be is a completely different question.

In its first announcement about Navalny's death, the Russian prison administration said that the Kremlin critic suddenly "felt unwell" and collapsed on Friday while walking in the freezing cold of his prison camp in Charp, Siberia. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful. The death was confirmed at 2:17 p.m. local time (10:17 a.m. CET). Shortly afterwards, Navalny's mother Lyudmila Navalnaya was told the cause of death was "sudden death syndrome", a death in seconds. This is generally understood to mean an unexpected cardiac arrest. But neither this information nor the information about the time and circumstances of death can be proven beyond doubt.

One thing is clear: Navalny was weakened. He survived a poison attack and was subjected to the most adverse prison conditions for years. His supporters accuse Vladimir Putin and his regime of murdering an enemy of the state.

But proving an active act of killing by the Russian power apparatus would be impossible if there is no access to the body of the deceased. On Monday, too, the Russian authorities denied this to Navalny's mother and supporters - allegedly because the investigation was still ongoing.

"In the investigative committee, the mother and the lawyers were told that the investigation into Navalny's death has been extended. How long it will last is not known," said Kira Yarmysch, spokeswoman for the Kremlin critic on X, formerly Twitter. "The reasons for the death are still 'undetermined'." Navalny's team accused the authorities of delaying tactics.

So even three days after the opposition member's death, all that remains is what Novaya Gazeta claims to have learned from several corners of the Salekhard hospital. The dead man's body is said to have numerous bruises. They are said to testify that Navalny had convulsions before his death and was held by prison camp guards. A bruise on the chest is also an indication that an attempt was actually made to revive Navalny. However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty: the anonymous source of the Exil newspaper claims not to have seen the body himself, but rather received the information from a colleague in the clinic.

Observers believe it is possible that the authorities are delaying the release of the body in order to avoid creating grounds for protests ahead of the presidential election in mid-March, which could spark at the funeral of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin's harshest critic.

Lawyer Yevgeny Smirnov believes it is conceivable that Putin's regime has hidden the body from the public for a long time. After the first check, criminal proceedings can be initiated in order to carry out further manipulations. "Finding a legal reason to keep the body for months or even longer is very easy," he said, according to the DPA news agency.

Navalny's supporters have repeatedly called for the authorities to return the body "immediately" and do not believe that they will contribute anything to a transparent and independent investigation into the death of Putin's main enemy. Kira Jarmysch wrote: "You lie, buy yourself time and don't even try to hide it."

Sources: Kira Yarmysh, “Novalya Gazeta”, news agencies DPA, AFP and Reuters

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