Russian President Vladimir Putin likely didn’t order the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny when the 47-year-old collapsed and died in February at an Arctic penal colony, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded, according to a report. 

While the U.S. has concluded that the Kremlin attempted to kill Navalny in 2020, when he was poisoned by a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent, and Putin has culpability in his death earlier this year, agencies like the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the State Department have assessed that Putin likely wouldn’t have wanted him killed at that moment, according to the Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter. 

One factor among many in the assessment was that Navalny’s death when he collapsed after a walk at the prison overshadowed Putin’s reelection, sources told the Journal. 

The U.S. increased sanctions on Russia after Navalny’s death. “Make no mistake. Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” President Biden said earlier this year. 

A WINDOW INTO ALEXEI NAVALNY’S MIND BEFORE HIS DEATH

A split of Navalny and Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely didn’t order the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny when the 47-year-old collapsed and died in February at an Arctic penal colony, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded, according to the report.  (Contributor/Getty Images/Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Former President Trump told Fox News in March that he thought Putin was “probably” to blame for Navalny’s death after “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz asked him if he thought the 71-year-old leader bore “some responsibility.” 

“I don’t know, but perhaps, I mean possibly, I could say probably, I don’t know,” Trump said. “He’s a young man, so statistically he’d be alive for a long time … so something happened that was unusual,”

Navalny had been in prison since 2021, after he returned to Russia from Germany where he had been in a hospital recovering from his poisoning. 

ALEXEI NAVALNY’S DEATH REPRESENTS MAJOR BLOW TO POLITICAL DISSENT IN RUSSIA

Navalny at a rally

Alexei Navalny, center, was allegedly poisoned by the Kremlin in 2020. After he recovered in Germany, he returned to Russia and was jailed in 2021.  (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

After his death, the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District in Russia put out a statement that said: “On Feb. 16, 2024, in penal colony number 3, convict Navalny A.A. felt unwell after a walk, almost immediately losing consciousness. 

“The medical staff of the institution arrived immediately, and an ambulance team was called. All necessary resuscitation measures were carried out, which did not give positive results. Doctors of the ambulance stated the death of the convict. The causes of death are being established.”

His cause of death has not been determined by the U.S. Russian media reports have claimed it was a blood clot. 

Putin frowning

Navalny was Putin’s most prominent opposition leader in Russia.  (Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images))

Navalny’s allies have called the U.S. assessment naive, and some European countries are skeptical that it wouldn’t have been directed by Putin. 

Navalny’s ally Leonid Volkov said in a statement that anyone claiming Putin didn’t order his death, “clearly do not understand anything about how modern day Russia runs. The idea of Putin being not informed and not approving killing Navalny is ridiculous.”

Slawomir Dębski, of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said the chances of Navalny’s death being unintentional were small. 

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“Navalny was a high-value prisoner, politically, and everybody knew that Putin was personally invested in his fate,” he said, according to the Journal. “The chances for this kind of unintended death are low.” 

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has also said that Putin ordered his death to prevent his release in a potential prisoner swap with the U.S. Putin said in March that the two agreed to the swap. 

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