Putin must be held accountable for Navalny’s death, UK Foreign Secretary says

Russian President Vladimir Putin must be held accountable for the death of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the UK Foreign Secretary has said.

Lord David Cameron said there should be “consequences” for the Moscow leader, of whom Mr Navalny was one of the most prominent and persistent critics even while behind bars.

Britain has joined other western countries in condemning the Kremlin after Russia’s federal prison service said in a statement that the 47-year-old politician and anti-corruption campaigner had died.

An ambulance arrived, but he died despite attempts to resuscitate him, it said.

Speaking to broadcasters as he attends the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Lord Cameron said: “We should hold Putin accountable for this, and no-one should be in any doubt about the dreadful nature of Putin’s regime in Russia after what has just happened.”

Asked whether there should be consequences, he said: “There should be consequences because there’s no doubt in my mind that this man was a brave fighter against corruption, for justice, for democracy, and look what Putin’s Russia did to him.

“They trumped up charges, they imprisoned him, they poisoned him, they sent him to an Arctic penal colony, and he’s died, and that is because of the action that Putin’s Russia took.”

“My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Russia, for whom this is a huge tragedy,” the Prime Minister said.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat went a step further, accusing Mr Putin’s regime of having murdered Mr Navalny in order to silence him.

“His courage lives on in those who reject Moscow’s dictatorship,” the minister said.

Alexei Navalny with his wife Yulia
Alexei Navalny with his wife Yulia after a rally in Moscow in 2013 (Evgeny Feldman/AP)

He was arrested on his return from Germany, where he had been recuperating after a nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, on charges he dismissed as part of a politically motivated vendetta.

Since the start of his imprisonment, the opposition leader had remained a thorn in the side of Mr Putin via scathing attacks that his associates continued to post on social media.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin was informed of Mr Navalny’s death and the prison service was looking into the matter in line with standard procedures.

Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on X that the politician’s team had no confirmation of his death so far and that his lawyer was travelling to the town where he was held.

His widow, Yulia Navalnaya, has called on the international community to unite in holding the “terrible” and “evil” regime in Moscow responsible in the wake of the news.

Several world leaders and Putin critics placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Russian president and his government on Friday.

Someone holds a placard with Navalny's face on it
A man holds a poster with a portrait of opposition leader Alexei Navalny during a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “it is obvious that he was killed by Putin” as he visited Germany.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Mr Navalny’s death makes clear “what kind of regime this is” and that he had “probably now paid for (his) courage with his life”.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson echoed those remarks: “No one can be in any doubt that Alexei Navalny has been put to death by Vladimir Putin.”

People take part in a protest opposite the Russian Embassy in London
People take part in a protest opposite the Russian Embassy in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Marina Litvinenko told Times Radio that he was a “prominent and, very well-known opposition, but they locked him out of all people in this prison.

“Made him maybe less active. And what that means for me, he should not be not in prison. He should be alive. He should live maybe in the West, and he would be more effective. But it was his decision to go back to Russia.”

She added: “His life, I think, would be more important than this death.”

Tributes came from across British politics in the UK on Friday, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calling his death “terrible news for the Russian people”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Putin would “never kill the light of freedom democracy which Navalny has stood for so courageously”.

Bill Browder, the staunch Putin critic who has lobbied for sanctions against Russia since his associate Sergei Magnitsky died after exposing tax fraud involving Russian officials, said it was “demoralising” Putin can feel “untouchable”.

Mr Navalny had been moved in December from his former prison in the Vladimir region of central Russia to a “special regime” penal colony, the highest security level of prisons in Russia, above the Arctic Circle.

His allies decried the transfer to the town of Kharp, in the remote Yamalo-Nenets region notorious for its long and severe winters, as yet another attempt to silence him.

Alexei Navalny
Mr Navalny had crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Many observers attributed his release to a desire by authorities to add a tinge of legitimacy to the mayoral election in Moscow, in which he had registered as a candidate.

Mr Navalny ultimately finished second in the contest, which was seen as an impressive outcome, as the incumbent had the backing of Mr Putin’s political machine.

When the Russian president has spoken about Mr Navalny previously, he has made it a point not to mention the activist by name, referring to him only as “that person” or similar in an apparent effort to diminish his importance.

Mr Putin recently launched a presidential campaign for his fifth term in office.

He is already the longest-serving leader in Moscow since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

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