A photo of Alexei Navalny and candles are seen in front of the Russian consulate in Krakow, Poland on February 16, 2024. 

Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

A spokesperson for Putin dissident Alexei Navalny confirmed his death on Saturday, after Russian media reported his demise on Friday, citing the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he was imprisoned.

Navalny’s team at the time said they could not corroborate the activist’s passing.

On Saturday, his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said in a Google-translated post on the X social media platform, that Navalny’s mother had received an official notice of his death.

“His death occurred on February 16 at 2:17 p.m. local time, according to the official message to Alexey’s mother. An employee of the colony said that the body of Navalny is now in Salekhard,” Yarmysh said, adding that the body had been collected by the Investigative Committee of Russia for further investigations. On Friday, the IC had said on Telegram that it is organizing a procedural check into Navalny’s demise, in a Google-translated post.

“We demand that Alexey Navalny’s body be handed over to his family immediately,” Yarmysh said Saturday.

The death of Navalny comes less than a month ahead of presidential elections that are widely seen as likely to yield President Vladimir Putin another mandate at the helm of the country. Opposition leader Navalny had been serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism in Russia since 2021, after recovering from a nerve agent poisoning.

His death has sparked a tidal wave of dismay from international leaders and high-profile figures, some of who questioned Putin’s role in the incident. Navalny’s demise and Moscow’s ongoing full-fledged invasion of Ukraine, soon to observe its second year later this month, have dominated conversations at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.

“Putin kills whoever he wants, be it an opposition leader or anyone who seems a target to him,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday at the MSC, accusing Putin of holding onto power “through corruption and violence” and stating that the death of Navalny sends a clear message to those gathered at the conference.

At the time of writing, more than 200 people were detained in Russia during rallies remembering Navalny that took place Friday and Saturday, a spokesperson for Russian human rights group OVD-info told CNBC. Of this tally, more than 27 people were from Moscow and 108 from St. Petersburg.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said that the Western reaction to Navalny’s reported death is “self-exposing,” given that no forensic medical examination has been made available at the time. The Kremlin has previously denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning and has pledged to investigate his death.

In a second Google-translated X update, Yarmysh said that Navalny’s mother and lawyer attempted to visit the morgue, which was closed. CNBC could not independently verify the report.

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