"Navalny was an opposition figure, but his investigative journalism exposed the corruption of the ruling elites in Russia," said Stella Assange.
The wife of WikiLeaks founder and imprisoned journalist Julian Assange said Friday that the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is "utterly devastating," pointing to his work uncovering corruption at the highest levels of Russian society.
"He was only 47. Had he not been imprisoned, he would be alive," Stella Assange wrote on social media. "Navalny was an opposition figure, but his investigative journalism exposed the corruption of the ruling elites in Russia."
"I feel for his wife Yulia and their two children, who will probably never really know what happened," she added. "Condolences to his friends and family."
Navalny's past release of confidential documents from the Russian government and state-run energy companies had drawn comparisons to Assange's work at WikiLeaks, which exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as international corruption.
Assange is currently languishing in a maximum-security prison in London, awaiting a hearing next week that will determine whether he can appeal his extradition to the United States.
Stella Assange warned Thursday that her husband "will die" if he's extradited.
U.S. President Joe Biden, whose administration opted to run with the prosecution of Assange that began under former President Donald Trump, warned in 2021 that the consequences for Russia "would be devastating" if Navalny died in prison.
"They killed him. I am heartbroken."
Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement Friday that Navalny lost consciousness after taking a walk at the penal colony above the Arctic Circle to which he was relocated in December. Navalny's health had badly deteriorated during his more than three years in prison on charges that he and human rights groups said were politically motivated.
Russia's prison service said Friday that "all necessary resuscitation measures were taken" after Navalny fell unconscious but were not successful.
"The ambulance doctors confirmed the death of the convict," the service added.
Leonid Volkov, Navalny's chief of staff, said he could not confirm the truth of Russian authorities' statement and that the opposition leader's attorney is heading to the prison where he was held.
"We have no grounds to believe state propaganda," Volkov wrote on social media. "If it's true, then it's not 'Navalny died,' but 'Putin killed Navalny,' nothing else. But I don't believe them for a second."
A spokesperson for Navalny said that "as soon as we have any information, we will report it."
“He demanded political freedom for himself and his supporters. He called out corruption and challenged [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. His death is a devastating and dire indictment of life under the oppressive and stifling rule of the Kremlin," said Callamard. "He paid the ultimate price for being a critical voice, and championing freedom of expression."
"As the search for justice begins, it is clear, there are few avenues at our disposal," she added. "That's why it is crucial that the international community take concrete actions to hold all those responsible to account. We must urgently call upon the United Nations to employ its special procedures and mechanisms to address the death of Aleksei Navalny."
The Peace and Justice Project, an organization founded by former U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, wrote Friday that "the world is watching an assault on political freedom."
"From the death of Navalny in Russian custody, to Julian Assange's U.K. imprisonment, to the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, to Modi's harassment of opponents in India, our duty is to speak up for justice," the group said.
Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister and co-founder of Progressive International, agreed with that statement.
"Precisely," he responded on social media. "From the genocide of Palestinians to the slow murder of Julian Assange to the eradication of Navalny... universal rights and freedoms are under fire."
In separate posts about Navalny's death, Varoufakis said progressives worldwide "need to fight for the right of all people not to be condemned to slow death in solitary confinement" and that his thoughts were with "all political prisoners languishing in jails."
This story has been updated with a statement from Amnesty International.