US finds Putin probably did not order Navalny’s death in February: Report

Officials say while Putin retains culpability for the death of his biggest critic, he probably did not want it to happen when it did.

A memorial for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]Published On 29 Apr 202429 Apr 2024

Intelligence officials in the United States have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably did not plan for jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny to be killed in February at an Arctic prison camp, according to US media reports.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter that it did not name, reported that US intelligence agencies did not dispute Putin’s culpability in Navalny’s death, but had concluded that the Russian President probably did not order Navalny’s death at the time it took place.

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The finding was “broadly accepted within the intelligence community and shared by several agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the State Department’s intelligence unit”, the Journal cited its sources as saying on Saturday.

The Associated Press news agency, citing a US official, reported separately that the intelligence community had found “no smoking gun” that Putin was aware of the timing of Navalny’s death or directly ordered it.

That report also stressed that Washington believed Putin was ultimately responsible for the death of Navalny who endured brutal conditions in jail and was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020 in an incident that almost killed him.

Navalny, 47, was Russia’s best-known opposition politician and Putin’s fiercest critic. At the time of his death on February 16, he was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of “extremism” that he rejected as politically motivated.

He had been behind bars since January 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from the Novichok poisoning.


Navalny’s allies, branded “extremists” by the authorities, accused Putin of having him murdered and have said they will provide proof to back their allegations.

Russian officials have said only that Navalny died of natural causes and have denied involvement both in the earlier poisoning and in his death.

The Journal said the US assessment was based on a range of information, including some classified intelligence, and an analysis of public facts, including the timing of Navalny’s death and how it overshadowed Putin’s re-election in March, the paper cited some of its sources as saying.

The people who spoke to the Journal would not elaborate on how Navalny might have died, or whether the intelligence services had developed alternative explanations for his death.

In announcing Navalny’s death, Russia said he collapsed during a walk in the penal colony and that paramedics were unable to revive him.

The newspaper added, citing security officials from several European capitals, that some European intelligence agencies had also been informed and that “certain countries” remained sceptical that Putin would not have had a direct hand in the incident in February. In a system as tightly controlled as Putin’s Russia, it is doubtful that harm could have come to Navalny without the president’s being aware, it reported the European officials saying.

Leonid Volkov, a senior Navalny aide, was also reported dismissing the findings.

Those who assert that Putin was not aware “clearly do not understand anything about how modern day Russia runs”, the Journal reported him as saying. “The idea of Putin being not informed and not approving killing Navalny is ridiculous.”

Source: News Agencies