Tributes to Alexei Navalny removed from Russian cities

Flower sprinkling tribute Alexei NavalnyA staunch opponent of President Vladimir Putin, who died Friday in a Russian penal colony, was removed overnight by groups of unidentified men as police watched, videos showed on Russian social media.

According to OVD-Info, a group that monitors political repression in Russia, more than 100 people who came to lay flowers in Navalny's memory were detained in eight cities across Russia. On Saturday, police blocked access to a memorial in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and detained several people there and in another Siberian city, Surgut, OVD-Info reported.

A video shared on social media from Novosibirsk showed people sticking red flowers upright in the snow under the watchful eye of police who blocked access to the memorial with ticker tape.

In Moscow, flowers were removed overnight from a memorial near the headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service by a large group as police watched, a video showed. But in the morning more flowers appeared.

News of Navalny's death comes less than a month before an election Putin has six more years in power.

“Now the penalty for dissent in Russia is not imprisonment, but death,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, former British ambassador to Belarus and senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the Institute for International Strategic Studies in London.

The circumstances of Navalny's death are still unclear.

Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service said Navalny was ill and lost consciousness after Friday's walk to the penal colony in the town of Karp in the Yamalo-Nenets region, 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow. An ambulance arrived, but could not revive him; It said the cause of death was still “being established”.

A man lays flowers to pay his respects to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder from the Solovetsky Islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established by the historic Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB). A building in the background on Saturday morning, February 17, 2024 in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Navalny had Jailed since January 2021, he blamed the Kremlin when he returned to Moscow to face some arrest after recovering from nerve agent poisoning in Germany. He was later convicted three times, alleging that each case was politically motivated, and was sentenced to 19 years in prison for extremism.

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After the final verdict, Navalny said he “understood serving a life sentence, measured by my lifetime or the lifetime of this regime.”

Hours after Navalny's death was announced, his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, made a dramatic appearance. A defense conference in Germany Many leaders were gathered there.

He said he considered cancelling, “but I thought about what Alexi would do instead of me. And I'm sure he'll be here,” she said, adding that she wasn't sure if she could trust the news from official Russian sources.

A portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, flowers and candles are placed on the ground as people gather to pay their last respects to Alexei Navalny at a memorial to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lavtsky)

A portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, flowers and candles are placed on the ground as people gather to pay their last respects to Alexei Navalny at a memorial to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lavtsky)

A woman lays flowers to pay her respects to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder in the Solovetsky Islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established by the historic Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB).  A building in the background on Saturday morning, February 17, 2024 in Moscow, Russia.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A woman lays flowers to pay her respects to Alexei Navalny at the monument, a large boulder in the Solovetsky Islands, where the first camp of the Gulag political prison system was established by the historic Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB). A building in the background on Saturday morning, February 17, 2024 in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“But if this is true, I want Putin and everyone around Putin, Putin's friends, his government, to take responsibility for what they did to our country, my family and my husband. This day will come very soon,” Navalnaya said.

US President Joe Biden said Washington did not know exactly what happened, “but there is no doubt that Navalny's death was the result of something done by Putin and his thugs.”

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Navalny “could have lived safely in exile,” but returned home “because he believed so deeply in his country, in Russia,” despite knowing he could be imprisoned or killed.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholes said Navalny “could have given his life now for this bravery”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been informed of Navalny's death. Kira Yarmish, a spokeswoman for the Opposition Leader, said on X, earlier on Twitter, that the team had yet to be confirmed.

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