Alexey Navalny
Alexey Navalny AFP

Top Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in prison, the country's state media reported on Friday. He was 47 years old.

A longstanding critic of the Kremlin and arguably the biggest one, Navalny had been imprisoned since 2021 on charges that many considered to be politically motivated.

"On February 16, 2024, in penal colony No. 3, convict A.A. Navalny felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness," news agency Interfax reported.

"The facility's medical workers immediately arrived at the scene and an emergency medical team was called in. All necessary resuscitation measures have been carried out, but they did not yield positive results. Emergency medics confirmed the death of the convict," it added.

Navalny rose to prominence after leading a series of anti-corruption investigations concerning top members of the Russian elites. Many of them led to mass protests in the country.

He tried to run against Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election but was barred from doing so due to a 2014 embezzlement conviction, which he denied claiming as fabricated to keep him out of politics.

Navalny, nonetheless, continued his public crusade through his investigations and by leading protest rallies across the country.

He was returning from one of them in 2020 when he was poisoned with a military nerve agent. Navalny survived the attempt after being taken to Germany for what was a long recovery process.

The Kremlin denied any involvement, but Navalny always said he was certain that wasn't the case.

Despite this, he decided to return to Russia in early 2021, but was arrested upon landing on charges related to the 2014 embezzlement case. He was subsequently sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but the conviction was continuously extended. His organization was also declared extremist and forced to shut down, and most of the staffers left the country.

By 2024 Navalny was in a maximum security penal colony on charges of extremism, something his allies said was designed to keep him in prison indefinitely. He continued defying the Kremlin through statements from his own and from his team.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin.

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