Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny
In this file photo taken on April 30, 2018 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during an opposition rally in central Moscow, to demand internet freedom in Russia. Image Credit: AFP

Moscow: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died on Friday after collapsing and losing consciousness at the penal colony north of the Arctic Circle where he was serving a long jail term, the Russian prison service said.

Navalny, by far Russia's most famous opposition leader, rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning the elite class round President Vladimir Putin and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale. He was 47.

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The Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District said in a statement that Navalny "felt unwell" after a walk at the IK-3 penal colony in Kharp, about 1,900 km north east of Moscow.

Navalny, the prison service said, had lost consciousness almost immediately.

"The medical staff of the institution arrived immediately, and an ambulance team was called," the prison service said.

Putin informed

"All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, which did not yield positive results. Doctors of the ambulance stated the death of the convict." "The causes of death are being established." Putin has been told about Navalny's death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Navalny earned admiration from Russia's disparate opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent.

Navalny said at the time that he was poisoned in Siberia in August 2020. The Kremlin denied trying to kill him and said there was no evidence he was poisoned with a nerve agent.

Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by speaking publicly - and documenting - what he said was the vast corruption and opulence among those who ran Russia.

Russian Nobel Peace Laureate and newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov, speaking to Reuters, called the death a "murder" and said he believed Navalny's prison conditions caused his death.

Western leaders paid tribute to Navalny's courage as a fighter for freedom. Some, without citing evidence, bluntly accused the Kremlin of murder and said Putin should be held accountable for the death.

Navalny's team, who have fled abroad, said it had no confirmation of his death but cast the prison service's statement as a murder confession.

To supporters, Navalny was a future leader of Russia who would one day walk free from jail to take the presidency, though many opposition activists had expressed fears that he was in grave danger in the Russian prison system.

There are few, if any, Russian opposition leaders of such prominence left inside Russia.

A day before his death , Navalny peered through a barred window, laughing and cracking jokes about his depleting funds and the judge's salary.

"Your Honour, I will send you my personal account number so that you can use your huge salary as a federal judge to 'warm up' my personal account, because I am running out of money," he said via video link.

Navalny's movement is outlawed and most of his senior allies now live in exile in Europe.