Navalny’s death was ‘message from Putin’ to the West, Zelensky warns

The death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was an attempt to send the West a “clear message”, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy has said.

Mr Navalny died at an Arctic penal colony yesterday, according to the Russian prison service, who said he had “felt unwell” and “immediately lost consciousness” after going for a walk.

The death of Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic has caused condemnation around the world, with widespread accusations that the Russian state was involved in his death.

In an impassioned speech the day after the news of Mr Navalny’s death, the Ukrainian leader accused Mr Putin of “murdering” his opponent – and warned that it was a threat to the entire West.

“[Putin] butchered Chechens, Syrians, invaded Georgia, ordered the execution of his opponents outside the walls of the Kremlin and in the heart of London and Berlin,” he told the a German security conference.

“And just yesterday, he tried to send us all a clear message as the Munich Security Conference opened. Putin murdered another opposition leader. Let’s not fear Putin’s defeat and the destruction of his regime. Let’s instead stand together to destroy what he stands for.”

Mr Zelenksy described the Russian leader as a “thug who maintains power through corruption and violence”, saying that the only advantage Russia had in their war with Ukraine was “the complete devaluation of human life.”

Tributes poured in around the world to Navalny, included in Hamburg, Germany, pictureed here. (Photo: AFP)

Mr Navalny died aged 47 while serving a 19-year sentence, according to the country’s prison service.

The 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.

Following news of Mr Navalny’s death, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that Putin should be held accountable, and summoned the Russian embassy.

Russian newspaper editor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the death was “murder”, and said that he believed prison conditions had led to his demise.

Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia, has said she does not know whether to believe if her husband has died, with no evidence yet provided to the family.

On Saturday, Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, confirmed his death and demanded that his body be returned 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.”