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Russian Opposition Leader Alexey Navalny Dies in Prison at the Age of 47; Reports of Navalny's Death Comes During Munich Security Conference Gathering. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 16, 2024 - 10:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And we start with breaking news this hour. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the age of

47, according to Russia's prison service. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference last hour, his wife, Yulia, said if the news was true, Russian

President Vladimir Putin is to blame.


YULIA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S WIFE (through translator): I would like to call upon all the international community, all the people in the world,

we should come together and we should fight against this evil. We should fight this horrific regime in Russia today. This regime and Vladimir Putin

should be personally held responsible for all the atrocities they have committed in our country.


ANDERSON: Alexey Navalny's wife Yulia speaking in the last hour, exposing corruption in high places and organizing anti-government protests.

Navalny's work made him an enemy of the Kremlin and an icon to many who were seeking an alternative to Vladimir Putin's regime.

CNN's Matthew Chance looks back at Alexey Navalny's life.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blogger, lawyer turned opposition politician, and anti-corruption

campaigner, Alexey Navalny was a menace for the Kremlin, who's not afraid to call President Putin out directly.

ALEXEY NAVALNY, IMPRISONED RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): Corruption is not just Putin, yet his is the base. He's a man who governs

openly with the help of corruption.

CHANCE: Navalny rose to prominence in 2008 exposing corruption in state- owned corporations. Years later he emerged as the leader of mass protests in the country after allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections.

Navalny was arrested several times during his life including in 2013 after being convicted of embezzlement charges just as he's preparing to run for

mayor of Moscow. It was a campaign he would lose.

Navalny denied all the charges and called them politically motivated. A retrial in 2017 prevented him from running for office. This time for

president against Vladimir Putin. That same year he was attacked with a green antiseptic fluid. It caused him damage in the vision of his right eye

and temporarily dyed his skin green. One year later Navalny told me what kept him going.

NAVALNY (through translator): The choice is very simple. You are either scared or you go on. I chose to go on a long time ago. I won't give up on

my country. I won't give up on my civil rights.

CHANCE: He exercised those rights by calling on his millions of followers across social media to protest, putting him firmly in the Kremlin's

crosshairs. In August 2020, on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, Navalny fell seriously ill. An emergency diversion by the plane's pilot appears to have

saved his life. Amid an international outcry, he was allowed to fly for treatment to Germany where it was discovered he'd been poisoned with

Novichok, a chemical nerve agent.

Later, the CNN- Bellingcat investigation revealed that for years Navalny had been trailed by FSB agents. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any

involvement. But an assassination attempt and a medically induced coma didn't deter Navalny from taking his fight to a higher level. Whilst

recovering in Germany, he conducted a sting operation against an FSB agent, convincing the operative to detail in a phone call how the Novichok was

used against him.

That was then broadcast on his YouTube channel shortly after he released a video offering Russians a look at what his team called Putin's Palace, a

mansion by the Black Sea, estimated to be worth more than $1 billion. President Putin denied the palace belongs to him or his family members.

January 2021, Navalny, returned to Moscow after receiving lifesaving treatment in Germany. He was immediately arrested for violating probation

terms imposed from a 2014 case and sent to a penal colony where he went on hunger strike protesting against the prison officials' refusal to grant him

access to proper medical care.


He'll be remembered for his bravery in tackling corruption across Russia and as one of Vladimir Putin's biggest adversaries.


ANDERSON: Jill Dougherty is a CNN contributor, former Moscow bureau chief for years. She joins us now live from Washington.

Matthew closing his report there on Alexey Navalny's life by suggesting how he will be remembered. What do you believe his legacy will be if indeed,

let's just be quite clear about this. We don't have confirmation as of yet from authorities that he is dead. This is according to Russian Prison

Services, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, his legacy I think is complex because right now, if it is confirmed that he is dead, and you heard that

actually coming from his wife, Yulia, who was at the Munich Security Conference, saying we don't know if it is true and I can tell you

personally, Becky, I was talking to his supporter of his and a good friend just about an hour ago, who said the same thing. We can't even trust the


We don't even know whether this is happening. But if it is, I think his legacy will be in what he triggered and, you know, created in Russia

because he was never able to become even the mayor of Moscow, and certainly never able to be the president of Russia. But what he did was he inspired

people to take action by themselves, to become involved politically. And that was what he was doing, right up to the end. He was encouraging people

not to vote for Putin, to vote for someone else.

So I think his legacy will be, let's say, a fulcrum to action by society. Now, maybe society won't do anything. Maybe society at this point can't do

anything. And it's pretty obvious. You know, if you can be arrested for, as I just saw the other day, wearing rainbow earrings, you know, things are

pretty desperate. But if society can do something, then I think that would be his legacy. A different Russia.

ANDERSON: His wife, Yulia, who you will know spoke earlier just in the past hour at the Munich Security Conference where so many world leaders are

gathered. I mean, they listened intently to her, make a speech from the stage. They applauded her, standing ovation at the back end of it. That

does, though, beg the question, if those who might have been inspired by Navalny on the street may or may not be able to honor his legacy with any

action, what can the world do if anything? His wife asked that Putin and his people be punished.

DOUGHERTY: Well, you already have the case, the criminal -- the International Criminal Court as Putin for human rights violations. Whether

he will ever be arrested and serve any time for that, would be convicted and serve, that's a big question. What can the international community

really do? I'm not certain. They can condemn and they can do all sorts of things, but it really is -- you know, nobody is going to invade Russia to

get Putin.

He will be almost definitely reelected president in March. That is no question. The presidential election will take place and he will be

reelected. He could even, you know, work as the president and be reelected and be there until he's about 83 years old technically. But I think the

question is, you know, is if you look at the way Putin looks at the world right now, he does not care what the outside world, especially Europe, the

United States, the West in general.

He does not care at all what they think about this, what they think about Russia or about him. And so I think he's going to continue to do what he

wants to do. And the focus for him now is not really on the international community. I think it's really on his own country. You know, what will

happen in this very difficult time right now kind of unpredictable in the wake of Navalny's apparent death before this election.

And Becky, you know, it's coming up March 15, 16, 17. So we're just like a month away.


So what will happen? I think there's a lot of paranoia in the Kremlin and a lot of unpredictability in Russia right now.

ANDERSON: This is Volodymyr Zelensky's reaction to the news. Have a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have just learned, as Mr. Chancellor has just said, that Alexey Navalny has died in a

Russian prison. Obviously he was killed by Putin like thousands of others who have been tormented, tortured, because of this one person. Putin

doesn't care who dies as long as he retains his position. And that is why he must not keep anything. Putin must lose everything. He must not retain

anything and must be held accountable for what he has done.


ANDERSON: How much more detail would you expect to hear from Russia at this point, about the details of Navalny's death, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, that's a great question. Well, I would expect the way things normally happen is that we will have an investigation and the

investigation will be carried out, you know, stamped and approved to show how Navalny died. It could be a blood clot as they're talking about right

now. But some type of reason for him to suddenly die.

Remember, his mother said he looked very, very healthy on the 12th. There is video of him looking very healthy and kind of happy, and giving it to a

judge verbally just yesterday. So anyway, there will be this investigation. It will show that somehow he was so sick and suddenly something happened

and then he died. There will never be any investigation that will give the precise cause if it's linked to the Kremlin.

There is no way that that will ever be revealed if indeed it's true. So, you know, I think in Russia that is what happens. Putin's Russia likes to

give the impression of democracy. So you're going to get a lot of, you know, stamps and approvals and things looking correct. But they're very

much not correct in the real world.

ANDERSON: Jill, you just alluded to some sound from Alexey Navalny yesterday in a Russian court. Let's actually get that for our viewers or

your viewers to hear this exchange with a Russian judge.


NAVALNY (through translator): Your honor, I am waiting and I will send you my bank account number so that you could warm it up a little from your huge

salary of the federal judge because my money is running dry and because of the decision you took, it will end even sooner. So do transfer. Alexander

Alexandrovich, you too, please have the whole prison chip in. Bye.


ANDERSON: And, Jill, I think it's worth just explaining why you believe Alexey Navalny was using such humor there with the judge. Just explain what

you believe to be the setup there and the mindset.

DOUGHERTY: Well, this is typical Alexey Navalny. This is how he communicated. He was a very modern communicator I would say in contrast to

the Kremlin, which was never able to get its messaging across in that convincing modern way. You know, Alexey Navalny used trolling and humor to

make very serious political points about corruption especially Kremlin corruption and corruption by President Putin.

And he was able to talk with young people and to get his message out in a very effective way. And I think there was great frustration in the Kremlin

that they just couldn't match that. So here's -- just imagine the scene, you know, Navalny has been held in prison now for a couple of years. He is

in a place that the Russians called a death place. It is so far away in Siberia, you wouldn't believe it.

And he is mocking the judge and saying, hey, my bank account is empty, why don't you fill it with your salary? So this is classic Alexey Navalny. I

have to say also that this is not and I'm not a doctor at all, but this is not a man who looks really, really sick and on the verge of death. Now, the

Kremlin can say in what we expect would be an investigation, well, he had a blood clot and that's very sudden.


But you have to say he died in the prison that the Kremlin wanted him to be in, and he was living under truly abysmal conditions that the Kremlin

wanted him to be in.

ANDERSON: There sentenced to an extra 19 years on top of the 11-and-a-half- year sentence that he was already serving, serving that in a penal colony right up by the Arctic Circle where he was moved just in December of 2023.

Jill, it's always a pleasure. Your insight analysis so important. Thank you so much for joining us. Jill has probably forgotten more than most of us

know about Russia and its news. Invaluable insight. Thank you.

Well, the news from Russia's Prison Service about Alexey Navalny's death was announced just as world leaders are gathering in Germany for the Munich

Security Conference. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg there said he was deeply saddened and disturbed, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz

said that the Russian opposition leader, quote, "paid for his courage with his life."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are also attending the conference, as is our chief national security

correspondent, Alex Marquardt, who joins us now there live from Munich.

Can you just describe the moment that the news there spread about Navalny's death?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, this is a relatively small place. All of the action, if you will, all the

meetings are concentrated in this hotel, the Bayerischer Hof, right behind me. And so as the news broke, and it broke on the Russian official

channels, it really rippled right through the crowds and it became and has been since it broke really the main topic of discussion.

Now, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. vice president, was essentially kicking off this conference. The first major world leader to make a speech.

And so the question quickly became to what extent would the White House's number two, President Biden's deputy, acknowledged this breaking news and

the death of Navalny, and she did it right at the beginning of her remarks. It wasn't lengthy because the U.S. is still clearly trying to assess what

exactly happened but without question, if Navalny has indeed died, they will hold Vladimir Putin personally responsible.

This may not have been as dramatic a death as Yevgeny Prigozhin, for example, who was knocked out of the sky on his private jet, but of course

as Vladimir Putin's most vocal, most prominent opposition figure, someone who was put into prison by the Putin regime, the U.S. is going to hold

Vladimir Putin personally responsible for the death of Navalny. We heard Vice President Harris say that this is further sign of Putin's brutality,

that Russia is responsible.

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken, just before that, saying that this underscores the weakness and rots at the heart of the system that Putin has


Becky, we've also learned that Blinken has personally met with Mrs. Navalny. He offered his condolences. And it was quite a moment when Yulia

Navalnaya stood up and spoke to the world leaders here in Munich. It was immediately following the Harris speech. The organizers stood up and said

that we will have a surprise guest. Everyone immediately assuming that that was going to be Yulia Navalnaya.

She got up there, she spoke clearly, powerfully, clearly emotional but not breaking down, not crying. She said it was something that Alexey would want

her to do and she said that Putin will be held personally responsible, and that his regime will be as well, and that the fight must continue against


Becky, so much of the focus was already going to be about Vladimir Putin at this conference and his actions in Ukraine. Now even more so with the death

of Alexey Navalny -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Alex, good to have you.

Folks, just before we take a very short break, I want you to hear Yulia Navalny's words from Yulia herself. Have a listen.


Y. NAVALNAYA (through translator): I would like to call upon all the international community, all the people in the world, we should come

together and we should fight against this evil. We should fight this horrific regime in Russia today. This regime and Vladimir Putin should be

personally held responsible for all the atrocities they have he committed in our country.



ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. We are back after this short break. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Well, our top story this hour, outspoken Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has died at the age of 47 in a penal colony, according to Russian

prison officials. The cause of his reported death is a mystery right now. Russian state media say that an ambulance crew tried to resuscitate Navalny

for more than half an hour or before he passed away.

He has long been a political menace for President Vladimir Putin. He exposed corruption in high places and orchestrated some of the biggest

anti-government protests this seen in recent years. Navalny was the target of a high-profile assassination attempt back in 2020.

Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward spoke with him after he recovered from that attempt on his life, and she joins us now from London.

And I just want our viewers to see some of that interview that you conducted with Navalny. Let's just run that if we have it.


A. NAVALNY: I understand how system work in Russia. I understand that Putin hates me and I understand that these people who are sitting in the Kremlin,

they are ready to kill.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it your contention that Vladimir Putin must have been aware of this?

A. NAVALNY: Of course, 100 percent. It could have not been happened without direct order of Putin because it's big scale.


ANDERSON: It was his contention that he had been poisoned by Vladimir Putin's regime. It is his wife's contention that if indeed he is dead, and

at this stage it must be traumatizing for her because clearly she doesn't know that for sure as none of us do. Prison Services suggesting that it is,

reporting that he is. If that is the case, she says it is her contention that this is at the hands of President Putin, Clarissa.

WARD: And you heard Kamala Harris, the U.S. vice president, echoing that. It almost doesn't matter what exactly killed Alexey Navalny in terms of

whether this was a specific assassination or whether he died because of the brutal treatment that he has incurred in prison. He was held in Russian

state custody and if beggars' belief that he would have died if he had not been held in these kinds of circumstances.

At the same time, Becky, we saw video of him in a courtroom just yesterday, and he appeared to be in pretty decent health all things considering.


At other points, he has really been in terrible health. He appeared fairly jovial. He made jokes. He had posted on Telegram on Valentine's Day a very

beautiful and romantic message to his wife, Yulia Navalnaya. And so I think there is broadly this sense of shock, not that anyone would believe that

the Kremlin would be above killing Alexey Navalny. As you point out, they already tried to kill him back in August of 2020 when the FSB administered

Novichok to the seam of his underwear while he was touring the country, while he was in Siberia.

And it was only a fluke, by the way, that he actually survived that poisoning. The pilot of the plane he was on when he collapsed diverted the

plane. It landed in a city called Oms and then he was taken to Germany for treatment. And still when I pressed him on this issue of would you go back

to Russia, he was adamant. I'm going back to Russia. It's where I belong. It's where the people who I want to serve, the Russian people, are.

And I will be irrelevant if I stay here in Europe, and he had a great line that always stuck with me to this day where he said, I would never give

Putin such a gift as to stay in Europe and sit on the sidelines in exile when I could be on the ground making a difference. And even when he was

languishing in these different, various Russian penal colonies, he was still active on social media. His team was still producing these

investigations and exposes into the massive corruption of the Kremlin and its kleptocracy, that were garnering tens of millions of views online.

So I think that there's a sense of not shock or of shock, but also, of course it confirms many people's grimace fears and concerns that anyone and

everyone who speaks out in Putin's Russia will meet a sticky end.

And final point, Becky, I would just add this raises also real concerns for opposition activists and outspoken critics of Putin, like Vladimir Kara

Murza, who is serving time in a Russian prison, who has been poisoned twice in the past. And you can imagine at the Munich Security Conference that

there will be a lot of conversations happening as to how and what leverage the West might have in some form to try to facilitate having him released

from prison now.

ANDERSON: Clarissa, it's good to have you. I will never give Putin that gift of silence, Navalny told you.

Well, Clarissa was talking about his Valentine's message to his wife -- thank you, Clarissa -- just Wednesday of this week. Let me read that to

you. "Baby, everything is like a song with you. There are cities between us, the takeoff lights of airfields, blue snowstorms and thousands of

kilometers, but I feel that you are near every second. And I love you more and more."

A reminder, Alexey Navalny who has been reported dead by Russian Prison Services today at the age of 47 was in an Arctic Circle penal colony

serving 19 years on top of the 11 and a half years that he had been sentenced to.

Let's bring in biographer David Herszenhorn. He is the author of "The Dissident: Alexey Navalny, Profile of a Political Prisoner." He's also the

Russian and Ukraine editor for the "Washington Post," and he joins us from Brussels.

Who was Alexey Navalny?


Vladimir Putin, the singular opposition leader who had stood up to Putin's regime now for decades, really aspiring to one day have a chance to run for

president and to be the leader of a free democratic Russia. That's what Navalny hoped to leave to his two children, a country that was freer and

more democratic than what he had been experiencing all these years under Putin's regime.

ANDERSON: Who was he as an individual? I mean, you talk about who -- that's the big picture. And we've learnt that story over the years. We've watched

Alexey Navalny very publicly pay for his courage, and now possibly, we can't confirm this yet, but likely with his life. Who was the private man?


HERSZENHORN: Well, you know, Navalny, his friends and family and the people who have known him the longest, would tell you was a political animal. Most

people know him having come to prominence as an anti-corruption crusader, as a blogger, speaking out against corruption. You've heard about this

shareholder activism, speaking out against the vast graft that we've seen in the Russian state.

But Navalny from very early on wanted to be a politician. He was in retail politics in Yablokov Party. The name translates as apple, one of the

liberal progressive parties as we know it in West within Russia, hoping that there will be some alternative to the Putin system, to United Russia,

which he famously at one point almost accidentally branded as the party of crux and thieves.

He was on a radio show and was asked what he thought about United Russia, Putin's party, and said, you know, well, they're terrible, they're the

party of crooks and thieves, which became a meme even before we really understood memes as memes, sort of captivating the imagination of Russians

who are fed up with so much that was going on in their country. And from there he became a very public and prominent leader of the opposition,

eventually known as the leader of the opposition after fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2011.

A series of white ribbon protests, tens of thousands of people on the street. Really the biggest outpouring that Russia had seen in many, many

years. But Navalny was also part of a generation that straddled the Russian federation and the end of the Soviet Union. Born from 1976 to 1982. His

wife Yulia was also part of that, born just a few weeks apart from him. And these were folks who were really embracing the world.

They were traveling, they were enjoying the freedoms. They could remember the Soviet Union, the oppression of that era. He remembered standing online

trying to get milk for his baby brother. His parents standing in terminal lines trying to get meat in Soviet years. And this was a guy who loved to

travel, who met his wife at a Turkish resort, who in fact after leaving from leading protests in Moscow, would go on vacation, Christmas vacation,

to Mexico, and was fielding calls from reporters, you know, while there in Chichen Itza, you know, looking at Aztec ruins.

So Navalny was a guy who was funny of course, known as a (INAUDIBLE) humor, really something, but ultimately committed to politics and to the idea that

Russia could be free and democratic.

ANDERSON: What do you believe his legacy will be?

HERSZENHORN: There's no question that folks will remember the bravery even if they think it was senseless bravery for him to go back in 2021 after

surviving an assassination attempt, the chemical weapon, knowing that his counterparts like Boris Nemtsov shot dead on a bridge right near the

Kremlin, knowing that this was a possibility, knowing and having been asked over and over again, as you heard Clarissa talking about constantly, he

will be asked, why are you still alive? And often he would say I don't know.

And he didn't want to think about that, knowing that it would be paralyzing to consider the risks. So the legacy for Navalny in part will be that

bravery, that willingness to stand up. He said this over and over again, urging his followers not to be afraid. He's also come out in the end very

strongly against the war in Ukraine. Many people don't realize how personal this war has been for Navalny because he is half Ukrainian on his father


He spent his childhood with his grandparents in Ukraine near Chernobyl and stopped going when he was 8 years old in the summer because of the nuclear

disaster. So Navalny had said some controversial things about Crimea but in the end spoke out very, very forcefully against this war, calling for

reparations for Ukraine to be paid from Russian oil and gas revenues. So that legacy no doubt will be felt in his yearning for freedom and democracy

in Russia. It seems very hopeless, though, at the moment on a dark day like this.

ANDERSON: It's great to have you on. I thank you very much indeed for your time. The book is an extremely good read. I can a wager that. Thank you,


Well, he paid for his courage with his life. That is what the German chancellor said about the Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny. We'll have more on

international reaction later in this show. Stay with us.



ANDERSON: We start with breaking news. This hour, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the age of 47. At least that is according to

Russia's Prison Service. He was serving time in a remote penal colony near the Arctic Circle, infamous for its harsh conditions.

Well, a short time ago, his wife, Yulia, got a standing ovation in Munich after an impassioned speech at a security conference attended by world

leaders. Take a listen.


Y. NAVALNAYA (through translator): I thought about it quite a while. I thought, should I stand here before you or should I go back to my children?

And then I thought what would have Alexey done in my place? And I'm sure that he would have been standing here.

But if it is the truth, I would like Putin and all his staff, everybody around him, his government, his friends. I want them know that they will be

punished for what they have done with our country, with my family and with my husband. They will be brought to justice. And this day will come soon.


ANDERSON: Well, reaction to the reported death of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny continues to pour in from around the world. Let me just get

you some of that.

In a post on X, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak writes, quote, "This is terrible news as the fiercest advocate for Russian democracy, Alexey

Navalny, demonstrated incredible courage throughout his life." The president of Latvia had a much darker post on X. He blamed Russia for

Navalny's death, saying he was brutally murdered by the Kremlin.

Let me bring in CNN's Matthew Chance, who joins us from London.

And just, Matthew, bear with me. I just want to read out just a couple of other reactions that we've had. Garry Kasparov, "My rage and eternals scorn

towards the Western politicians who treated Navalny's poisoning and jailing as just another negotiating point with Putin as they did the murder of

another friend, Boris Nemtsov. Big talk, no action, more blood on their hands."

Matthew, what do you make of what Kasparov has tweeted in the past hour or so?

CHANCE: Yes. I mean, look, he's articulating what many people around the world and inside Russia are undoubtedly thinking right now, which is that

this is purely at the responsibility of the Kremlin.


I mean, whether or not we find out for real what exactly caused Alexey Navalny to suddenly collapse after his daily exercise, he was walking

around the prison yard, apparently, according to the prison authorities, when he felt unwell and collapsed. It's not clear. The Kremlin say there's

a forensic investigation to find out what caused it. But look, I mean, there's very little faith in these -- the sort of truthfulness, the

veracity of these kinds of official investigations.

I think Kamala Harris, the U.S. vice president, summed it up when she said, look, regardless of what the explanation is or will be, Alexey Navalny died

whilst in the custody of the Russian authorities. And it's therefore the Kremlin who will be held ultimately responsible for this.

Now, what the reaction will be, of course internationally we've started to see that now. There are memorials being laid already in countries outside

of Russia where it's safe to do so. The international condemnation has started to come in and will I expect intensify. But the big question is,

what will happen inside Russia because obviously this sends a very chilling message to the Russian opposition, which has already been sort of stumped

on over the course of the past several years in a crackdown by the Kremlin on dissent and on opposition activities.

But this sends another chilling message that opposition to the Kremlin criticism of Vladimir Putin will not be tolerated and will be met with

harsh consequences. And I think many Russians who I've spoken to, many who've spoken to the media elsewhere, it's been reported as well, are

expressing their shock that Alexey Navalny, by far the most important and prominent opposition figure in the country, has died whilst in the prison


But it's also not altogether surprising, Becky, because Alexey Navalny is not the first opposition figure to be killed or to die in suspicious

circumstances. He fits into a pattern which many people in Russia and around the world, obviously can see for themselves.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance on the story, Matt, it's good to have you. Thank you very much indeed.

Well, we are going to take a very quick break. Back after this.



ANDERSON: Just a few hours ago, an announcement that drew shock and sorrow from around the world, one of the Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics,

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, was reported to have died in a Russian prison. U.S. officials are still working to confirm what was an

announcement from the Russian Prison Service. Navalny's wife Yulia said this in front of dozens of heads of state assembled in Munich in the last



Y. NAVALNAYA (through translator): If it is the truth, I would like Putin and all his staff, everybody around him, his government, his friends. I

want them know that they will be punished for what they have done with our country, with my family and with my husband. They will be brought to

justice and this day will come soon.


ANDERSON: They will be brought to justice, Alexey Navalny's wife says of Putin and what he describes as his friends.

Christiane Amanpour joining us.

Now, Christiane, you spoke to Alexey Navalny back in December of 2020 when he had survived that Novichok poisoning. What did he tell you then?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I asked him then because he was on his way back to Russia to continue his opposition

activities and I asked him after, you know, going through all the stuff that he had gone through, as you mentioned, why would he go back again, and

here's what he said.


AMANPOUR: Why do you want to go back? And I guess, do you think you'll be safe when you go back?

A. NAVALNY: Well, I don't think that I can have such a privilege being safe in Russia, but I have to go back because I don't want these, you know,

group of killer exist in Russia. I don't want Putin be ruling of Russia. I don't him being president, I don't want him being tsar of Russia because,

well, he's killing people. He's the reason why the whole country is degradating. He's the reason why people are so poor. We have a 25 million

people living below the poverty line. And the whole degradation of system.

Fortunately for me, including system of assassination of people. He's the reason of that. And I want to go back and try to change it.


AMANPOUR: So, Becky, there was an audible, you know -- you know, some loud expressions of shock when this news came through, this Munich Security

Conference, where so many world leaders are precisely here to talk about Russia but in terms of what's going to happen in the Ukraine battlefield

over the next year, and there are a number of Russian exiles here, people who had been in Putin's jails.

And, you know, we had Fiona Hill, former U.S. National Security official, who said this is a big sign to all of these people and to anybody who would

confront Putin. We still don't know. We still don't know the facts. You know, it hasn't been independently confirmed. But nonetheless, it is about

a month before the Russian elections, which Putin is standing unopposed and obviously expected to win by a landslide, and this fight against Ukraine

and against the world continues.

So this, so many interlinking threads that are happening right now. And the fact of this death being announced anyway at this time while everybody is

still waiting for confirmation, at least about details, is something that's really causing a huge amount of anxiety because it comes combined with the

questions about Ukraine's ability to hold Putin off, given the fact that the West is stalling, the United States is stalling on military aid, and

concerns that the alliance, the 75-year-old alliance, may not be able to count on American leadership if, for instance, former president Donald

Trump gets into office again.

So all of these issues are happening right now, which is why Kamala Harris, the vice president, and the official American delegations here are trying

to convince their allies that the U.S. leadership stands firm and that they are not going anywhere.

ANDERSON: After you spoke to Navalny, in 2021, Joe Biden warned of and I quote him here, devastating consequences for Russia if Navalny dies in

prison. His wife today and you were there, you heard her in Munich on the stage saying that Vladimir Putin will be punished if indeed her husband is

dead, dead in a Russian penal colony where he was serving a sentence of 19 years on top of what was already an 11-year sentence.


I just wonder what your thoughts are on how the likely Western world will respond.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's going to be interesting to see, that's for sure, because it's not just Yulia and it's not just President Biden all those

years ago, but right now, the, you know, National Security adviser, the secretary of state, President Zelenskyy, many, many world leaders have come

out and condemn this death and have said the world is watching. And when they know the facts, you know, they will want to make sure that whoever is

responsible is held accountable.

But this all happens as I say, as they're already confronting Putin and they have been for the last two years, at least over the full-scale

invasion of Ukraine, which happened shortly after the Munich security conference two years ago. And so the whole world, at least the Western

world and the NATO alliance, is raid against with sanctions and the like. And so we're going to wait and see, but this is another, or as being

described here, a dark warning and a dark message.

ANDERSON: It's always good to have you, Christiane. Thank you.

Christiane Amanpour at the Munich Security Council, responding to the news that we have been breaking here at CNN over the past couple of hours that

Prison Services in Russia have announced the death of Alexey Navalny at the age of 47.

Back after this.


ANDERSON: Right. You're watching CNN's coverage of our breaking news. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the age of 47. That is, according to Russia's Prison Service. Navalny had previously

been a target of an assassination attempt back in 2020.

Now this news of Navalny's death came as world leaders were gathered in Germany for the Munich Security Conference. There U.S. Vice President

Kamala Harris gave her reaction. In attendance was U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had this to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: His death in a Russian prison and the fixation and fear of one man only underscores the weakness and rot at

the heart of the system that Putin has built. Russia is responsible for this. We'll be talking to many other countries concerned about Alexey

Navalny, especially if these reports bear out.


ANDERSON: We also heard from Alexey Navalny's wife. She said if the news was true Russian President Vladimir Putin is to blame.


Y. NAVALNAYA (through translator): I would like to call upon all the international community, all the people in the world, we should come

together and we should fight against this evil. We should fight this horrific regime in Russia today.


This regime and Vladimir Putin should be personally held responsible for all the atrocities they have committed in our country.


ANDERSON: That is Yulia Navalnaya, who is Alexey's wife, confirming there on the stage that as she spoke to world leaders who gave her a standing

ovation at the end of that emotional speech, confirming that it is unclear to her, she has had no confirmation as to whether this announcement is

actually true that her husband is actually dead at the age of 47.

More, of course, on this story as we get it. For the time being, that is it from at least a team working with me here in Abu Dhabi.

I'm Becky Anderson. CNN's breaking news coverage continues after this short break. Stay with us.