US Intelligence agencies believe Putin did not order his opponent to be killed in prison

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not order the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in February. Navalny’s death led to a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia and scuppered prisoner-exchange negotiations between Russia and the West.

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Putin probably did not plan “for it to happen when it did,” which “deepens the mystery about the circumstances of [Navalny’s] death.”

Citing intelligence sources, the Journal claims that US intelligence still believes Putin was, ultimately, responsible for his opponent’s death. This finding is “broadly accepted within the intelligence community.”

European intelligence agencies have, apparently, been appraised of this view. Some appear to be sceptical, believing that no harm could have come to Navalny without Putin’s say-so.

Navalny was targeted by the Kremlin for years, during his time in the country and during his time abroad. He came second in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election and was barred from running in the 2018 presidential election.

In the summer of 2020, he was poisoned, apparently with the Novichok nerve agent, and evacuated from Russia to Berlin for treatment. Navalny blamed Putin for his poisoning. When he returned to Russia in January 2021, he was arrested. He received a prison sentence of 2.5 years in February of that year, and his party, Russia of the Future, was designated an extremist organisation and liquidated. Navalny received an additional nine years in prison when he was put on trial in March 2022 for charges of embezzlement and contempt of court.

When news of Navalny’s death was released by Russian authorities at the beginning of this year, Biden stated, unequivocally: “Make no mistake. Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death.”

The Journal also reports that Navalny’s personal friends and allies reject the new US intelligence assessment of the circumstances of his death.

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