The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is dead. According to the Russian authorities the 47-year-old collapsed in the "Polar Wolf" prison colony on Friday and could not be revived. His body has not yet been released. Human rights activists talk of the well-known opposition figure, who survived a poisoning attempt in 2020, having been murdered. For the press, the ramifications of Navalny's death go far beyond his own fate.

The most inconvenient of subjects

Novaya Gazeta Europe describes Navalny as a permanent source of unease for Putin's entourage:

“For them he was a source of stress and problems. ... And that for almost 15 years. For the first ten they didn't know what to do with him and his investigations into their illegally acquired palaces and yachts, their bribes and their mistresses. For the last five they tried to neutralise him. He miraculously escaped and kept them on edge again, revealing in yet another investigation exactly how they organised the poisoning attack that was supposed to kill him. He even made a phone call to one of his failed assassins. ... He was always laughing in their faces and being brazen. ... Easy-going, unpretentious, clever and always presenting facts and evidence for the claims he made.”

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Even in death still feared by the state

Commenting in a Telegram post picked up by Echo, Republic editor-in-chief Dmitry Kolesov sees another reason apart from covering up the circumstances of Navalny's death for keeping his body hidden:

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“The authorities fear that - as long as emotions are running high over Navalny's death - his funeral could turn into a major political event and culminate in mass demonstrations. The events in Russia's cities show that many people want to express their feelings and honour Navalny's memory. The state is trying to prevent this with heavy-handed police methods - destroying spontaneous memorials and arresting and imprisoning mourners.”

Critical situation for the Kremlin

For Spotmedia, the battle between Navalny and Putin is not over:

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“Millions of people in Russia took part in the protests organised by Alexei Navalny before he was poisoned. ... What will they do tomorrow and in the coming days when they know that any one of them could fall victim to the regime? The Kremlin finds itself in a new critical situation. Navalny's death has huge repercussions. Many European leaders are blaming Moscow. ... The battle between Navalny and Putin goes beyond life and death. We are witnessing the beginning of the final chapter of an epic confrontation between democracy and dictatorship that will shape the 21st century.”

No crocodile tears, please!

Mourning is not enough, Avvenire puts in:

“We should try to understand the logic that prevails in the Kremlin. ... What need was there to increase the pressure on Navalny by moving him months ago to the most remote and notorious Siberian prison? Pointing the finger at the Kremlin is not enough and plays into the hands of its propaganda, which is already casting a shadow over the European elections in June. Instead, we must have the courage and imagination to actively support those in Russia who try to resist and hold up the banner of freedom and democracy. Navalny chose to do this until his last breath. He deserves more than crocodile tears.”

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Putin knows no red lines

The Kremlin leader will go to any lengths to achieve his goals, journalist Vitaly Portnykov writes in Espreso:

“The murder of Alexei Navalny in the Polar Wolf penal colony has made it clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing. We are always trying to look for some indication of moderation in the actions of the Russian head of state. Where is the red line at which he would stop? The murder of political enemies? War? A nuclear nightmare? Friends, there is no such red line. This man is capable of any act that endangers our lives, the lives of his compatriots and even the existence of the world. ... When it comes to realising his ambitions, this man is not prepared to stop.”

A dark portent

De Standaard fears more tragedy before the Putin regime comes to an end:

“This kind of brutality can only end in one way: with the (possibly violent) death of Putin. Before that happens, however, Putin can wreak more havoc than we in Europe thought possible even after the invasion of Ukraine. The war accelerated Russia's decline into a desolate dictatorship. ... This is a dark portent of how the war in Ukraine could end. According to classical logic, diplomacy must come into play. ... But a Putin who even lets Navalny die is not receptive to this.”

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