Aleksei A. Navalny portrayed himself as invincible, constantly utilizing his hallmark humor to recommend that President Vladimir V. Putin couldn’t break him, irrespective of how dire his situations grew to become in jail.

However behind the courageous face, the fact was plain to see. Since his incarceration in early 2021, Mr. Navalny, Russia’s most formidable opposition determine, and his employees recurrently urged his situations have been so grim that he was being put to loss of life in sluggish movement.

Now his aides imagine their fears have come true.

The reason for Mr. Navalny’s loss of life in jail at 47 has not been established — actually his household has not but even been allowed to see his physique — however Russia’s harshest penal colonies are recognized for hazardous situations, and Mr. Navalny was singled out for significantly brutal remedy.

“Aleksei Navalny was subjected to torment and torture for 3 years,” the Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitri A. Muratov wrote in a column after his loss of life was introduced on Friday. “As Navalny’s physician instructed me: the physique can’t face up to this.”

Greater than 1 / 4 of Mr. Navalny’s incarceration since 2021 was spent in freezing “punishment cells” and he was typically denied entry to medical care. He was transferred to ever crueler prisons. And at one level, he stated he was being given injections however was prevented from discovering out what was within the syringes. His crew frightened he was once more being poisoned.

What particularly led to Mr. Navalny’s loss of life on Friday at a distant jail above the Arctic Circle could stay a thriller. The Russian jail service launched a press release Friday afternoon saying that Mr. Navalny felt sick and out of the blue misplaced consciousness after being exterior.

Russian state media reported that he had suffered a blood clot. However the story modified on Saturday, when Mr. Navalny’s mom and lawyer arrived on the jail. They have been instructed he had suffered from “sudden loss of life syndrome,” which appeared to point sudden cardiac arrest, in line with Ivan Zhdanov, director of Mr. Navalny’s anti-corruption basis.

Investigators instructed a lawyer for Mr. Navalny {that a} repeat examination was being carried out and the outcomes can be launched subsequent week. Mr. Navalny’s employees referred to as for the physique to be launched instantly in order that his household might order an impartial evaluation, accusing Russian authorities of mendacity to hide the physique.

Based on his aides, Mr. Navalny had been put in a punishment cell on the Arctic jail within the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area on Wednesday, two days earlier than Russian authorities introduced his loss of life.

His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, stated that marked his twenty seventh time in such an inhumane area, often a roughly 7-feet-by-10-feet concrete cell with insufferable situations — chilly, damp and poorly ventilated. His newest spherical of punishment, had he survived, would have taken his complete interval in such a cell to 308 days, greater than 1 / 4 of his time in incarceration, in line with Ms. Yarmysh.

As soon as a day at 6:30 a.m., prisoners within the punishment cells on the Arctic facility are allowed right into a coffin-like concrete enclosure open to the sky via a steel grate, Mr. Navalny stated in a message from the facility earlier this 12 months. It gave the impression to be after such a session on Friday that Mr. Navalny misplaced consciousness, in line with the Russian jail service’s account. It was about -20 Fahrenheit exterior.

In a letter from jail final month, Mr. Navalny described how he might stroll a complete of 11 steps from one finish of the open-air area to the opposite, noting that the coldest it had been thus far on one in all his walks was -26 Fahrenheit.

“Even at this temperature, you may stroll for greater than half an hour, as long as you’ve time to develop a brand new nostril, ears and fingers,” he wrote. “There are few issues as invigorating as a stroll in Yamal at 6:30 within the morning. And what an exquisite contemporary breeze blows into the yard, regardless of the concrete enclosure, wow!”

Whereas strolling there on a current day, he stated he was freezing and interested by how Leonardo DiCaprio climbed right into a useless horse to flee the chilly within the wilderness survival film “The Revenant.” A useless horse would freeze in that a part of Russia inside quarter-hour, Mr. Navalny surmised.

“Right here we want an elephant — a sizzling, fried elephant,” he stated.

Mr. Navalny typically employed such wit within the face of his inhumane remedy. But it surely had grow to be more and more clear, over his three years of incarceration, that he may not survive.

“The cumulative remedy of Navalny over a number of years in jail — in a manner you would say it was driving him near loss of life,” Mariana Katzarova, the United Nations Human Rights Council particular rapporteur on the human rights scenario in Russia, stated in an interview Saturday. “We don’t know but. We want an investigation.”

For a time, Mr. Navalny did appear virtually invincible.

In August 2020, he fell in poor health on a flight from the Siberian metropolis of Tomsk to Moscow, after being poisoned with a nerve agent from the Russian-made Novichok household. He was put right into a medically induced coma for 2 weeks throughout remedy in Germany — and survived.

The U.S. authorities later attributed the poisoning to Russia’s Federal Safety Service, often called the F.S.B.

Regardless of the assassination try, Mr. Navalny returned to Russia in early 2021 to proceed his struggle towards Mr. Putin, who denied Russia’s involvement within the poisoning, and rapidly discovered himself imprisoned. His well being started to deteriorate virtually instantly.

In March 2021, he complained about extreme again ache that later became an issue together with his leg.

He demanded that jail authorities present him with correct medical care and provides him remedy. As an alternative, they subjected him to sleep deprivation, he stated. On the finish of March 2021, he declared a starvation strike over his remedy, and Russian docs and Hollywood stars took up his trigger in open letters to Mr. Putin.

About three weeks later, Mr. Navalny was examined by an impartial panel of docs. The assessments by the docs discovered that, “quickly sufficient, there received’t be anybody to deal with,” Mr. Navalny stated in a message posted to Instagram.

Final 12 months, Mr. Navalny wrote from jail that his jokes in regards to the punishment cell shouldn’t normalize the setting. He lamented {that a} fellow political prisoner, who had spoken out towards the battle in Ukraine, had been put in a punishment cell, regardless of being disabled and lacking a part of his lung.

Mr. Navalny described dire well being situations in jail, the place he said many inmates suffered from tuberculosis. He additionally complained early final 12 months in regards to the administration in his former jail inserting a mentally unwell individual in a cell reverse his, as a type of torment, and an in poor health prisoner in his small cell.

On the time, his lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, stated the jail intentionally contaminated him with a respiratory sickness, refused to provide him drugs after which “handled” him with large doses of contraindicated antibiotics. Mr. Navalny suffered extreme abdomen ache and misplaced greater than 15 kilos because of this, Mr. Kobzev stated.

“These actions can’t be considered something apart from an open technique to destroy Navalny’s well being by any and all means,” Mr. Kobzev stated in a press release on the time. “Clearly, the jail wouldn’t danger participating on this stage of demonstrative unlawfulness with out approval from Moscow.”

Mr. Kobzev has since been arrested on extremism prices for associating with Mr. Navalny — a part of a broader roundup of the opposition chief’s attorneys late final 12 months.

Mr. Navalny suffered a dizzy spell and was placed on an IV drip in an unexplained medical episode in early December. However Russian authorities nonetheless transferred him later that month from a jail within the Vladimir area, about 130 miles east of Moscow, to the “particular regime” penal colony within the Arctic the place he died.

A number of docs contacted after his loss of life, together with one who was concerned in his preliminary remedy within the Siberian metropolis of Omsk, stated his loss of life was doubtless unrelated to his poisoning greater than three years earlier, given his sturdy restoration.

However he confronted many different well being hazards since then.

“A Russian jail is a spot the place it’s important to be ready to die on daily basis,” Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, a Russian tycoon who spent a decade in jail after difficult Mr. Putin, stated on Friday.

Within the interview, Mr. Khodorkovsky, who was launched in 2013, stated a prisoner should discover a technique to deal with the burden as a take a look at as a way to survive mentally, and Mr. Navalny had executed that. However even then, he added, “this won’t defend you from being killed.”

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

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