Alexei Navalny & more: Long list of Putin’s critics meeting a mysterious end

Alexei Navalny & more: Long list of Putin’s critics meeting a mysterious end

Feb 17, 2024 - 19:30
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Alexei Navalny & more: Long list of Putin’s critics meeting a mysterious end

Alexei Navalny’s death has stunned the world. Russia’s most prominent Opposition leader died at the Arctic Circle penal colony, the prison service announced on Friday (16 February).

Several world leaders, including United States president Joe Biden, and Russian Opposition activists have blamed President Vladimir Putin and his government for Navalny’s reported demise.

There were always concerns that Navalny could meet an untimely end since he returned to Russia in 2021. “If they decide to kill me then it means we are incredibly strong and we need to use that power and not give up,” Putin’s vociferous critic once told CNN. “We don’t realise how strong we actually are.”

From plane crashes to poisonings, many of Putin’s foes have died under mysterious circumstances. Navalny’s untimely demise has put the spotlight on many of these deaths which are unsolved and continue to be listed as accidents and suicides.

Let’s take a closer look.

Yevgeny Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was once a close aide of Putin, died in a plane crash last year. The former head of the Wagner mercenary group had fallen out of favour with the Russian president when the two met in Moscow in August 2023 following an aborted mutiny that summer wherein Prigozhin’s fighters seized the city of Rostov.

As per The Guardian, the Wagner chief seemed to have come to a truce with the Kremlin that included evacuating his troops to Belarus and the mercenary group taking its activities outside Ukraine.

However, last August, the Embraer Legacy 600 business jet carrying the 62-year-old mysteriously spiralled to the ground, killing Prigozhin, the field commander Dmitry Utkin and eight others on board.

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According to CNN, Russian authorities said Prigozhin’s death was confirmed by genetic testing. There is no concrete evidence linking the Kremlin to the plane crash. However, as Bill Browder, a critic of the Russian president pointed out, “Putin never forgives and never forgets.”

Boris Berezovsky

Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, who was once a Kremlin insider, turned into a vocal critic of Putin’s government and fled to the UK in the early 2000s.

In Britain, he even called for a coup to overthrow the Russian president, reported CNN. A Russian court convicted him of fraud and tax evasion in absentia in 2007. The oligarch also accused Russia of trying to assassinate him.

In 2013, Berezovsky was found dead with a noose around his neck in the bathroom of his UK home. The British police ruled his death as suicide.

According to The Guardian, many of his associates, including Georgian oligarch and business partner Badri Patarkatsishvili, Nikolai Glushkov and the Yukos oil founder, Yuri Golubev, have been found dead in puzzling circumstances.

Boris Nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov was a deputy prime minister in the late 1990s under then-President Boris Yeltsin. A Putin critic, Nemtsov was shot dead by an unknown assailant in February 2015 while he was walking with his girlfriend in central Moscow.

In 2017, five men of Chechen origin were arrested over his death. However, many Nemtsov supporters believed that Kremlin had a hand in his killing.

An investigation by journalists from Insider, BBC and Bellingcat found that he was tailed by FSB agents for about a year before his killing within sight of the Kremlin, reported The Guardian.

russia killings

Anna Politkovskaya

Politkovskaya, a journalist, reported critically on Russia’s war in Chechnya. She was gunned down in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006.

Five men were sentenced to prison in 2014 by a Moscow court for the killing of the Novaya Gazeta reporter.

Denying any involvement of the Kremlin in her killing, Putin had said that Politkovskaya’s “death in itself is more damaging to the current authorities both in Russia and the Chechen Republic … than her activities,” reported CNN.

Alexander Litvinenko

Alexander Litvinenko, a former member of the FSB security services turned Putin opponent, died of polonium-210 poisoning in London at a hotel bar in 2006.

Two Russian agents had laced his green tea with the highly radioactive element, a British inquiry found. It also said that Putin “probably approved” the ex-spy’s killing.

Litvinenko, who died a slow and painful death, blamed Putin and the Kremlin. “You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life,” he said in his deathbed statement.

Other unusual deaths

Financier Alexander Perepilichnyy became a whistleblower in 2010, providing evidence of alleged fraud against Russian tax officials. In 2012, he died suddenly during his jog back to his home in London.

His death appeared to be of natural causes. However, in 2015, plant toxicology experts in Kew said they found traces of a rare plant poison – gelsemium – in his stomach.

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky had helped unearth the $230 million tax fraud involving government officials in 2008. Soon after, Magnitsky was arrested on separate tax fraud charges. He died in 2009 in prison with a Russian presidential human rights commission report finding that the lawyer was beaten on the day he died, as per CNN.

The Russian government claims Magnitsky died of heart failure.

At least 13 high-profile Russian businessmen have died by suicide or in mysterious circumstances over the past year, according to CNN. Of these, six were linked to Russia’s two largest energy companies, Gazprom and Lukoil. Notably, Russia’s oil giant Lukoil, in a rare move, denounced Russia’s war in Ukraine last year.

Ravil Maganov, head of Lukoil, had reportedly fallen from a hospital window in Moscow in September 2022. Lukoil said in a statement at the time that Maganov “passed away following a severe illness.”

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Alexander Buzakov, the head of a major Russian shipyard, died suddenly in December 2022, with no cause given by authorities, reported Reuters.

Russian sausage magnate-turned-lawmaker Pavel Antov died after “falling” from the third-floor window of a hotel in Odisha’s Rayagada district in December 2022. The preliminary postmortem report of Putin’s detractor ruled his death as “accidental”.

With inputs from agencies

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