“Sudden Death Syndrome” kills Navalny says Russian State

What are the implications of Navalny’s death?


On Friday anti-Putin oppositionist Alexi Navalny was found dead at the Kharp high security prison near the Arctic to which he had been transported recently in secret.  Russian state authorities claim his death was due to “Sudden Death Syndrome”. His detention since 2021 has been marked by repeated evidence of maltreatment and sleep deprivation constituting slow torture, making his death hardly ‘sudden’ and without prior signals at all.

The Left Berlin discussed Navalny after his poisoning by Putin’s agents, with a spectacular flight to emergency treatment in Charite Berlin. Upon his recovery Navalny exposed in a ‘sting’, the Russian secret services attempt to murder him. He flew back to Moscow, well aware that arrest awaited him:

“Navlany flew back to Russia in January 2021. He fully understood that he would be arrested on a number of somewhat spurious charges. He had in the meantime exposed the secret service attempts to poison him with a taped ‘sting’ telephone call to one of the FSB operatives while posing as an operative. He had also openly goaded Putin. In these very public statements, and in his courting of arrest – Navalny has behaved just like Khodorkovsky did in his day. On January 17 2021 Navalny was arrested. However, in sharp contrast to previous arrests of anti-Putin agitators, there was now a reservoir of heightened, near-organised discontent in the Russian people. Moreover, social media enabled wide-spread demonstrations.” 

Navalny underwent the vindictive attempt to silence him in the form of slow torture. This no doubt led to his death, although his corpse may ultimately reveal more acute violence. As Piotr Sauer reported in the Guardian:

“At the time of his death, Navalny was due to serve a cumulative three decades in prison. It was made clear he would remain in jail as long as Putin remained in power. In jail, Russia’s most famous opposition leader faced some of the worst excesses of the Russian prison system. He said the Kremlin wanted to break him, as a punishment for staying alive. His team feared worse. Navalny went on hunger strike after being denied urgent medical treatment in prison. He said the authorities subjected him to psychological pressure and sleep deprivation, detailing a fellow inmate to wake him every hour on the pretext of making sure he had not escaped.” 

We should grieve for the ill-effects on any progressive anti-Putin movement in Russia. However Navalny’s character as a pro-Western capitalist should not be denied. Even so, his defiance had mobilised a wide movement:

“While Navalny is offensively anti-immigrant, anti-Chechen, and is supported by Western capitalism, he has undoubtedly been a major part of a wide grass-roots democratic movement. Critical support for his ‘Smart Voting’ movement as a first step to rebuilding a socialist movement is the only way forward for progressives inside Russia.” 

His death is not unmourned in Russia, with many courting arrest:

“At least 359 people have now been arrested at rallies in memory of the late Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. This would be the largest wave of arrests in Russia since the arrest of more than 1,300 people during demonstrations against the partial mobilization for the Ukrainian war in September 2022. A number of people were arrested, especially in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, as the civil rights platform  Online-Bürgerrechtsplattform OVD-Info  announced. In total there were arrests in 32 Russian cities.” 

The body count as consequence of the Russian army invading Ukraine continues to rise. Guarding his rear, Putin has suppressed more dissidents who might become a focus against him – whether  from right-wing, center, or left-wing. 

For example the right-winger,  oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. Previously we noted his similarity to “Coriolanus. Similar to that Roman general in an arrogant hubris fueling a spectacular change of direction, he now only awaits his own murder” (Kumar, The Left Berlin 27/06/23).

Indeed Progozhin’s murder duly came. More recently other Putinite-suppressions silenced the centre. Putin removed the potential candidacy of Nadezhdin in the forthcoming elections. This removed a significant, but largely symbolic challenge:

“Russia’s election commission has rejected anti-war challenger Boris Nadezhdin as a candidate in next month’s presidential vote. Mr Nadezhdin has been relatively critical of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale war in Ukraine when few dissenting voices have been tolerated in Russia. Election authorities claimed more than 15% of the signatures he submitted with his candidate application were flawed… The Central Election Commission said that of the 105,000 signatures submitted by Mr Nadezhdin, more than 9,000 were invalid. They cited a variety of violations. That left 95,587 names, meaning he was just short of the 100,000 required signatures to register as a candidate, commission member Andrei Shutov said.” 

It might not be irrelevant that even from the Arctic, “Navalny had called for a nationwide protest on the day of the March presidential election and for voters to gather at the polls at noon as a sign of dissent against Putin(Catherine Belton Washington Post , Feb 17, 2024. ).

From the left-wing Putin removed the potential ‘socialist’ force of Boris Kargalitsky:

“Leading left-wing Russian thinker Boris Kagarlitsky is facing up to seven years in prison on charges of “justifying terrorism” even though it is clear to everyone – including supporters of Vladimir Putin and his aggression in Ukraine – that he was arrested for his anti-war views. Kagarlitsky is perhaps the most prominent Marxist thinker in the post-Soviet space… he was arrested on 25 July after stating in a social media post that the attack on Russia’s Crimean Bridge in October 2022, believed to be the work of Ukraine, was understandable “from a military point of view”. His case is just one of hundreds of police investigations into anti-war Russians.”

Navalny’s death further prolongs the Russian imperialist aggression into Ukraine. Members of the United Communist Party in some Russian ‘communist parties’ openly repudiate their own leadership for refusing to condemn imperialist war of Russia’s.  Meanwhile the USA and Western imperialist powers try to lever Navalny’s death into ensuring further funds to Ukraine.

Despite the risk to themselves, the war continues to arouse many Russians into confronting Putin’s state. While no clear leadership or formal movement has yet to emerge – it will.