Alexey Navalny timeline: From poisoning to prison to death

The Kremlin’s most prominent critic dies after collapsing and losing consciousness at a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, prison authorities say.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is escorted by police officers after a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow on January 18, 2021 [File: Evgeny Feldman/Meduza/Handout via Reuters]

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence, prison authorities say.

Navalny lost consciousness after a walk on Friday and could not be revived by medics, the prison service said.

The 47-year-old was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic and spent much of his time in recent years either in prison or recovering from attacks, including a near-deadly poisoning that grabbed the world’s attention and became emblematic of the risks faces by the Kremlin’s opponents.

Here’s a look at some of the key moments in his life since that poisoning.

August 20, 2020 – Navalny is hospitalised in the Siberian city of Omsk after falling ill and losing consciousness while on a domestic flight over Siberia. Navalny’s spokesperson says he was poisoned, perhaps by a cup of tea he drank prior to takeoff from Tomsk’s Bogashevo airport, but Russian doctors treating him say they found “no trace” in his blood or urine.

August 22, 2020 – Navalny is airlifted to Charite hospital in Germany’s capital, Berlin, for treatment. The Russian medical team treating him had initially refused his transport before later releasing him. German doctors say their tests indicate Navalny was poisoned.

September 2, 2020 – German officials say there is “unequivocal proof” Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. Chancellor Angela Merkel says Navalny is a victim of attempted murder, adding there are “serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer”. International calls for an investigation into the incident mount.

September 3, 2020 – The Kremlin rejects claims, including those made by Navalny’s team, that Moscow was behind the poisoning.

September 4, 2020 – A Russian toxicologist says Navalny’s health could have deteriorated because of dieting, stress or fatigue, insisting no poison had been found in his body.

September 7, 2020 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma.

September 11-13, 2020 – Russia holds local elections, during which Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities.

September 14, 2020 – Laboratories in France and Sweden confirm Germany’s findings that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. French President Emmanuel Macron urges Putin to shed light on the “attempted murder”, but the Russian leader only condemns what he describes as “unsubstantiated” accusations.

September 15, 2020 – Navalny posts a message on Instagram saying he is able to breathe unaided. He includes a photo of himself, sitting up in his hospital bed looking gaunt, with his wife, Yulia, and two children.

September 17, 2020 – Navalny’s aides say they have discovered Novichok traces on a bottle taken from the hotel in Siberia where he stayed before falling ill.

September 21, 2020 – Navalny says Western laboratories have found Novichok traces in and on his body, and he demands Moscow return his clothes from the day he fell ill.

September 22, 2020 – Navalny is discharged from hospital, and doctors say a “complete recovery is possible.” The Kremlin says Navalny is welcome to return to Moscow while his spokesperson says Russia froze his assets while he was in a coma.

October 1, 2020 – Navalny accuses Putin of being behind his poisoning and says he will not give the Russian president the pleasure of being in exile. Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accuses Navalny of working for the CIA and calls his claims “groundless and unacceptable”.

December 14, 2020 – Citing flight records and mobile phone geolocation data, the investigative website Bellingcat and Russian media outlet The Insider publish results of a joint investigation into Navalny’s poisoning. In cooperation with Der Spiegel and CNN and endorsed by Navalny, they report identifying a team of assassins from Russia’s FSB security service who have stalked Navalny for years. It names intelligence officers and poison laboratories it says were behind the operation.

December 21, 2020 – Navalny releases a recording of him appearing to trick an FSB agent into confessing that he tried to kill him by putting poison in his underpants. The FSB denounces the video clip of the phone call as “fake”.

December 28, 2020 – Russia’s prison service gives Navalny a last-minute ultimatum, telling him to fly back from Germany at once and report to a Moscow office the next morning. The prison service warns Navalny he will be jailed if he returns after the deadline. Navalny’s spokesperson says it is impossible for him to return in time, adding that he is still convalescing after his poisoning, and accuses the prison service of acting on orders from the Kremlin.

January 12, 2021 – Court documents reveal a Russian judge was asked to jail Navalny in absentia for, among other infractions, having allegedly broken the terms of a suspended sentence.

January 13, 2021 – Navalny posts a video on Instagram announcing plans to return to Russia. “It was never a question of whether to return or not simply because I never left. I ended up in Germany after arriving in an intensive care unit for one reason: They tried to kill me,” he says.

January 17, 2021 – Navalny flies to Russia from Germany. He is detained shortly after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. The arrest provokes condemnation from several European and world powers and a chorus of calls for his immediate release.

January 18, 2021 – A Russian judge remands Navalny in pre-trial detention for 30 days for violating the terms of his suspended jail sentence at a hastily arranged court hearing in a police station on the outskirts of Moscow. Navalny urges Russians to take to the streets in protest against the decision. “Don’t be afraid. Take to the streets. Don’t go out for me. Go out for yourself and your future,” he says in a video published on social media.

February 2, 2021 – A Moscow court orders Navalny to serve two and a half years in prison for his parole violation. While in prison, Navalny stages a three-week hunger strike to protest against a lack of medical treatment and sleep.

June 9,  2021 – A Moscow court outlaws Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and about 40 regional offices, describing them as “extremist” and effectively shutting down his political network. Close associates and team members face prosecution and leave Russia under pressure. Navalny maintains contact with his lawyers and team from prison, and they update his social media accounts.

February 24, 2022 – Russia invades Ukraine. Navalny condemns the war in social media posts from prison and during his court appearances.

March 22, 2022 – Navalny is sentenced to an additional nine-year term for embezzlement and contempt of court in a case his supporters reject as fabricated. He is transferred to a maximum-security prison in western Russia’s Vladimir region.

July 11, 2022 – Navalny’s team announces the relaunch of his anticorruption foundation as an international organisation with an advisory board. Navalny continues to file lawsuits from prison and tries to form a labour union in the facility. In response, penitentiary officials start regularly placing him in solitary confinement over purported disciplinary violations, such as failing to properly button his garment or wash his face at a specified time.

January 11, 2023 – More than 400 Russian doctors sign an open letter to Putin, urging an end to what they say are abusive jail conditions for Navalny, after reports that he was denied basic medication after getting the flu. His team expresses concern about his health, saying in April that he has acute stomach pain and suspected he is being slowly poisoned.

March 12, 2023 – The film Navalny about the attempt on the opposition leader’s life wins the Oscar for best documentary feature.

April 13, 2023 –  Navalny grapples with severe stomach pain in jail that his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh says could be because of a slow acting poison. The prison food, she adds, is making his stomachache worse. But authorities, she says, aren’t allowing him to buy or eat other food.

April 26, 2023 – Appearing on a video link from prison during a court hearing, Navalny says he is facing new “extremism” and “terrorism” charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. He adds sardonically that the charges imply that “I’m conducting terror attacks while sitting in prison.”

June 19, 2023 – The trial begins in a makeshift courtroom in Penal Colony Number 6, where Navalny is being held. Soon after it starts, the judge closes the trial to the public and the media despite Navalny’s demand to keep it open.

July 20, 2023 – The prosecution in its closing arguments asks the court to sentence Navalny to 20 years in prison, the politician’s team reports. Navalny says in a subsequent statement that he expects his sentence to be “huge, … a Stalinist term”, referring to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

August 4, 2023 – Navalny is convicted and receives a 19-year prison sentence.

December 11, 2023 – Navalny’s whereabouts are unknown as officials at the Vladimir penal colony where he is serving his sentence tell one of his lawyers that he is no longer on the inmate roster, his spokesperson says.

December 15, 2023 –  Navalny allies say his lawyer is told in court that the politician has been moved from the penal colony east of Moscow where he has been serving time. But Navalny’s aides say they have not been told where he was taken. The Kremlin says it has “no information”.

December 25, 2023 – Associates of Navalny say he has been located at a prison colony above the Arctic Circle nearly three weeks after contact with him had been lost.

December 26, 2023 – Navalny releases a sardonic statement about his transfer to the prison colony nicknamed the “Polar Wolf,” the first news from him since his associates lost contact with him.

January 9, 2024 – Navalny says on social media that officials at the Arctic penal colony have isolated him in a tiny punishment cell over a minor infraction.

January 10, 2024 – A smiling and joking Navalny appears in court via video link from the Arctic penal colony, the first time the Russian opposition leader has been seen on camera since his transfer to the remote prison.

February 1, 2024 – In a social media statement, Navalny urges Russians to protest against Putin during March’s presidential balloting by voting at a specific time on election day.

February 15, 2024 – Navalny is last seen in public when he appears via video link in a court hearing. He jokingly asks the judge to transfer some of the jurist’s “huge salary” to Navalny because he is running out of money.

February 16, 2024 – Navalny dies, state media report, citing the prison service.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies