Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has reportedly died in prison, according to state media. The prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region, where Navalny was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism, announced his death.

Navalny’s team has not immediately confirmed the news, with his spokesperson mentioning that his lawyer is headed to the remote IK-3 penal colony, known as the special regime or Polar Wolf, where Navalny was incarcerated. According to state media, the federal prison service reported that Navalny “felt bad” after a walk and lost consciousness, and resuscitation measures were unsuccessful.

The causes of the Russian opposition leader’s death are currently under investigation.

The penitentiary service reported his prior hospitalisation for malnourishment and other ailments. The Kremlin has stated that President Vladimir Putin has been informed of Navalny’s death. Navalny’s aide, Leonid Volkov, pointed out the lack of confirmation or disproof regarding Navalny’s alleged death in prison.

The IK-3 penal colony, located in Kharp, approximately 1,900 km northeast of Moscow, is infamous for its severe conditions, harsh winters, and housing inmates convicted of serious crimes. Navalny’s imprisonment in this high-security facility, often described as one of the most stringent in Russia, attracted international attention.

Navalny had been in prison since January 2021, following his return to Moscow from Germany, where he had recovered from nerve agent poisoning. He accused the Kremlin of being responsible for the poisoning.

Navalny was a prominent figure leading campaigns against corruption and organised major anti-Kremlin protests. In a video from January, Navalny appeared skinny with a shaved head, raising concerns about his health and the conditions he faced in prison.

Alexei Navalny won 27% of the vote in a Moscow mayoral contest in 2013, despite widespread doubts about the election’s fairness. This marked a turning point for Navalny, showcasing his growing influence and the appeal of his anti-corruption message.

Navalny continued to confront the Kremlin, revealing alleged corruption at the highest levels of the Russian government. He exposed a luxurious palace on the Black Sea believed to be for President Vladimir Putin’s personal use, disclosed properties and assets of former President Dmitry Medvedev, and uncovered connections between a sex worker, a high-ranking foreign policy official, and a prominent oligarch.

Navalny fell into a coma after a suspected novichok poisoning in 2020, an act he and many international observers attributed to Russia’s FSB security service. Evacuated to Germany for treatment, he recovered and returned to Russia in January 2021.

Upon his return, Navalny was immediately arrested on charges of parole violation, which he and his supporters denounced as politically motivated. Facing multiple jail terms that, when combined, amounted to over 30 years of imprisonment, Navalny became a symbol of resistance against the Kremlin. As Navalny faced legal battles and imprisonment, President Vladimir Putin, currently the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin, launched a presidential campaign for his fifth term in office. Constitutional changes in 2020 removed term limits, potentially allowing him to extend his rule beyond 2030.