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Vladimir Putin’s critics: dead, jailed, exiled

US State Dept says Russia defense shake-up shows Putin 'desperation' on war
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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died Friday at the Arctic prison colony where he was serving a 19-year-term, is the latest critic to fall foul of President Vladimir Putin.

Others have been killed, narrowly escaped death or been exiled. Here are Putin’s best-known critics and where they are now:

Navalny, 47, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was jailed in early 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recuperating from a near-fatal poisoning attack with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.

He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges widely condemned by independent rights groups.

Late in 2023 he was moved to a remote Arctic prison colony in Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets region in northern Siberia, where he died on Friday after losing consciousness after going for a walk.

In 2015 Boris Nemtsov, a Kremlin critic and a former deputy prime minister, was shot dead as he walked home across a Moscow bridge near the Kremlin.

Five Chechen men were convicted of killing Nemtsov but the mastermind of the murder was never found.

Nemtsov’s allies have pointed the finger at the Kremlin and at Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has denied the accusation.

Nemtsov, a charismatic speaker, had criticised Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and regularly taken part in opposition protests. He was 55 at the time of his death.

Nearly a decade earlier, in 2006, the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya outside her Moscow home shocked the world.

Politkovskaya, a reporter at Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s top independent newspaper, was a fierce critic of Kremlin’s tactics in Chechnya.

Opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, 42, was in April 2023 jailed for 25 years, in the harshest sentence so far over comments critical of the Kremlin and the Ukraine offensive.

He was jailed on charges of treason, spreading “false” information about the Russian army and being affiliated with an “undesirable organisation”.

He suffers from serious health problems which his lawyers say were due to two poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017.

Opposition politician Ilya Yashin was jailed for eight and a half years in December 2022, for spreading “false” information about the Russian army, under legislation criminalising criticism of the Ukraine offensive.

In July 2023 Lilia Chanysheva, Navalny’s ally in the central Bashkortostan Republic, was handed seven and a half years in prison.

In December a Russian court sentenced Ksenia Fadeyeva, who led Navalny’s now-banned organisation in the Siberian city of Tomsk, to nine years in prison for “extremism”.

Some of Putin’s high-profile critics have been in exile for years.

They include former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison after challenging the Russian leader early in his rule.

Khodorkovsky lives in London and has financed media projects critical of the Kremlin.

Many of Navalny’s prominent allies fled Russia after his organisations were banned as “extremist”.

But the decision in February 2022 to send troops into Ukraine, which ushered in an unprecedented crackdown at home, proved to be a final nail in the coffin for Russia’s opposition movement.

Russians opposed to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine are now scattered around the world. Many have fled to Europe and Israel.

The epithet, “foreign agent” which has Stalinist-era overtones, has been used by authorities to mount administrative pressure on critics.

Many journalists and Russia’s main independent media outlets have been branded “foreign agents”, making it much harder to operate.

Among those given the title are exiled former prime minister Mikhail Kassyanov, the chief editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, and Oleg Orlov, the 70-year-old co-chair of the Nobel Prize winning Memorial group.

On Friday Russia opened a new trial against Orlov, who faces up to five years in prison for denouncing the Ukraine offensive.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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