Alexei Navalny
Alexei NavalnyReuters

Russia’s spymaster claimed on Tuesday that opposition leader Alexei Navalny died of natural causes, The Associated Press reported.

Sergei Naryshkin, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, the top spy agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, made the statement in an interview broadcast by Russian state television. He did not name the cause of Navalny’s death in a remote Arctic penal colony or give any other details.

“Sooner or later life ends and people die,” he said. “Navalny has died of natural causes.”

Navalny died on February 16 at Penal Colony No. 3 in the town of Kharp, in the Yamalo-Nenets region about 1,900 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

Russian authorities still have not announced the cause of his death at age 47.

US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death, as have many other Western leader. Biden said on the day of Navalny’s death he did not yet know exactly what had happened to him, but that it was the fault of Putin and his "thugs."

Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, accused Putin of being responsible for his death and indicated she will pick up her husband’s mantle, for a “happy, beautiful Russia.”

Navalny, one of Putin's most prominent critics, was arrested in January of 2021 for alleged parole violations after returning from Germany, where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

He was later sentenced by a Russian court to a three-and-a-half-year sentence, though his lawyer said he would serve only two years and eight months in jail because of time he has already spent under house arrest.

In March of 2021, Navalny launched a hunger strike to protest the authorities’ failure to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains. He subsequently ended the hunger strike on the advice of his doctors.

In August, a Russian court convicted Navalny on charges of extremism and sentenced him to 19 years in prison.