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Protests, poisoning and prison: The life and death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Protests, poisoning and prison: The life and death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

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Protests, poisoning and prison: The life and death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s top opposition leader and President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, died in prison on Friday, a statement from the Federal Penitentiary Service said.

Navalny, who was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism, felt unwell after a walk and collapsed, it said. The politician’s team had no immediate confirmation of his death.

Navalny was moved in December from his former prison in central Russia to to a “special regime” penal colony — the highest security level of prisons in Russia — above the Arctic Circle.

In a span of a decade, he went from being the Kremlin’s biggest foe to Russia’s most prominent political prisoner.

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Here’s a look at key events in Navalny’s life, political activism and the charges he has faced through the years:

June 4, 1976 — Navalny is born in a western part of the Moscow region.

1997 — Graduates from Russia’s RUDN university, where he majored in law; earns a degree in economics in 2001 while working as a lawyer.

2004 — Forms a movement against rampant overdevelopment in Moscow, according to his campaign website.

2008 — Gains notoriety for alleging corruption in state-run corporations, such as gas giant Gazprom and oil behemoth Rosneft, through his blogs and other posts.

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2010 — Founds RosPil, an anti-corruption project run by a team of lawyers that analyzes spending of state agencies and companies, exposing violations and contesting them in court.

2011 — Establishes the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which will become his team’s main platform for exposing alleged graft among Russia’s top political ranks.

December 2011 — Participates in mass protests sparked by reports of widespread rigging of Russia’s parliamentary election, and is arrested and jailed for 15 days for “defying a government official.”

March 2012 — Following President Vladimir Putin’s reelection and inauguration, mass protests break out in Moscow and elsewhere. Navalny accuses key figures, including then-Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Chechnya’s strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, of corruption.

July 2012 — Russia’s Investigative Committee charges Navalny with embezzlement involving Kirovles, a state-owned timber company in the Kirov region, while acting as an adviser to the local governor. Navalny rejects the allegations as politically motivated.

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December 2012 — The Investigative Committee launches another probe into alleged embezzlement at a Navalny-linked Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher, a French cosmetics company. Navalny again says the allegations are politically motivated.

2013 — Navalny runs for mayor in Moscow — a move the authorities not only allow but encourage in an attempt to put a veneer of democracy on the race that is designed to boost the profile of the incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin.

July 2013 — A court in Kirov convicts Navalny of embezzlement in the Kirovles case, sentencing him to five years in prison. The prosecution petitions to release Navalny from custody pending his appeal, and he resumes his campaign.

September 2013 — Official results show Navalny finishes second in the mayor’s race behind Sobyanin, with 27% of the vote, after a successful electoral and fundraising campaign collecting an unprecedented 97.3 million rubles ($2.9 million) from individual supporters.

October 2013 — A court hands Navalny a suspended sentence in the Kirovles case.

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February 2014 — Navalny is placed under house arrest in connection with the Yves Rocher case and banned from using the internet. His blog continues to be updated regularly, presumably by his team, detailing alleged corruption by various Russian officials.

December 2014 — Navalny and his brother, Oleg, are found guilty of fraud in the Yves Rocher case. Navalny receives a 3 ½-year suspended sentence, while his brother is handed a prison term. Both appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

December 2015 — Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption releases its first long-form video — a YouTube documentary called “Chaika,” which means “seagull” in Russian but is also the last name of then-Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. The 44-minute video accuses him of corruption and alleged ties to a notorious criminal group and has piled up 26 million views on YouTube. Chaika and other Russian officials deny the accusations.

February 2016 — The European Court of Human Rights rules that Russia violated Navalny’s right to a fair trial in the Kirovles case, ordering the government to pay his legal costs and damages.

November 2016 — Russia’s Supreme Court overturns Navalny’s sentence and sends the case back to the original court in the city of Kirov for review.

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December 2016 — Navalny announces he will run in Russia’s 2018 presidential election.

February 2017 — The Kirov court retries Navalny and upholds his five-year suspended sentence from 2013.

March 2017 — Navalny releases a YouTube documentary accusing then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption, getting over seven million views in its first week. A series of anti-graft protests across Russia draw tens of thousands and there are mass arrests. Navalny tours the country to open campaign offices, holds big rallies and is jailed repeatedly for unauthorized demonstrations.

April 27, 2017 — Unidentified assailants throw a green disinfectant in his face, damaging his right eye. He blames the attack on the Kremlin.

October 2017 — The European Court of Human Rights finds Navalny’s fraud conviction in the Yves Rocher case to be “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”

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December 2017 — Russia’s Central Electoral Commission bars him from running for president over his conviction in the Kirovles case, a move condemned by the EU as casting “serious doubt” on the election.

July 2019 — Members of Navalny’s team, along with other opposition activists, are barred from running for Moscow city council, sparking protests that are violently dispersed, with thousands arrested. Navalny’s team responds by promoting the “Smart Voting” strategy, encouraging the election of any candidate except those from the Kremlin’s United Russia party. The strategy works, with the party losing its majority.

2020 — Navalny seeks to deploy the Smart Voting strategy during regional elections in September and tours Siberia as part of the effort.

Aug. 20, 2020 — On a flight from the city of Tomsk, where he was working with local activists, Navalny falls ill and the plane makes an emergency landing in nearby Omsk. Hospitalized in a coma, Navalny’s team suspects he was poisoned.

Aug. 22, 2020 — A comatose Navalny is flown to a hospital in Berlin.

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Aug. 24, 2020 — German authorities confirm Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent. After he recovers, he blames the Kremlin, an accusation denied by Russian officials.

Jan. 17, 2021 — After five months in Germany, Navalny is arrested upon his return to Russia, with authorities alleging his recuperation abroad violated the terms of his suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher case. His arrest triggers some of the biggest protests in Russia in years. Thousands are arrested.

Feb. 2, 2021 — A Moscow court orders Navalny to serve 2 ½ years in prison for his parole violation. While in prison, Navalny stages a three-week hunger strike to protest a lack of medical treatment and sleep deprivation.

June 2021 — A Moscow court outlaws Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and about 40 regional offices as extremist, shutting down his political network. Close associates and team members face prosecution and leave Russia under pressure. Navalny maintains contact with his lawyers and team from prison, and they update his social media accounts.

Feb. 24, 2022 — Russia invades Ukraine. Navalny condemns the war in social media posts from prison and during his court appearances.

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March 22, 2022 — Navalny is sentenced to an additional nine-year term for embezzlement and contempt of court in a case his supporters rejected as fabricated. He is transferred to a maximum-security prison in Russia’s western Vladimir region.

July 2022 — Navalny’s team announces the relaunch of the Anti-Corruption Foundation as an international organization with an advisory board including Francis Fukuyama, Anne Applebaum, and the European Parliament member and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. Navalny continues to file lawsuits in prison and tries to form a labor union in the facility. Officials respond by regularly placing him in solitary confinement over purported disciplinary violations such as failing to properly button his garment or to wash his face at a specified time.

2023 — Over 400 Russian doctors sign an open letter to Putin, urging an end to what it calls abuse of Navalny, following reports that he was denied basic medication after getting the flu. His team expresses concern about his health, saying in April he had acute stomach pain and suspected he was being slowly poisoned.

March 12, 2023 — “Navalny,” a film about the attempt on the opposition leader’s life, wins the Oscar for best documentary feature.

April 26, 2023 — Appearing on a video link from prison during a hearing, Navalny says he was facing new extremism and terrorism charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. He adds sardonically that the charges imply that “I’m conducting terror attacks while sitting in prison.”

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June 19, 2023 — The trial begins in a makeshift courtroom in the Penal Colony No. 6 where Navalny is held. Soon after it starts, the judge closes the trial to the public and media despite Navalny’s objections.

July 20, 2023 — In closing arguments, the prosecution asks the court to sentence Navalny to 20 years in prison, his team reports. Navalny says in a subsequent statement that he expects his sentence to be “huge … a Stalinist term,” referring to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Aug. 4, 2023 — Navalny is convicted of extremism and sentenced to 19 years, and he says he understands he’s “serving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 2nd left, and his lawyers Alexander Fedulov, left, Olga Mikhailova, right, and Vadim Kobzev, second right, are seen on a TV screen standing among his lawyers, as he appears in a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, during a hearing in the colony, in Melekhovo, Vladimir region, about 260 kilometers (163 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. (AP Photo, File)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 2nd left, and his lawyers Alexander Fedulov, left, Olga Mikhailova, right, and Vadim Kobzev, second right, are seen on a TV screen standing among his lawyers, as he appears in a video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, during a hearing in the colony, in Melekhovo, Vladimir region, about 260 kilometers (163 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. (AP Photo, File)

Oct. 13, 2023 — Authorities detain three lawyers representing Navalny after searching their homes, and his ally Ivan Zhdanov says on social media the move is a bid to “completely isolate Navalny.” The raids targeting Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser are part of a criminal case on charges of participating in an extremist group, Zhdanov says. Navalny’s spokesperson says if the opposition leader has no access to lawyers, “he will end up in complete isolation, the kind no one can really even imagine.”

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Dec. 2, 2023 — New charges are filed against Navalny. In comments passed to associates, Navalny says he has been charged under Article 214 of the penal code, covering vandalism. “I don’t even know whether to describe my latest news as sad, funny or absurd,” he writes on social media via his team. “I have no idea what Article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do.”

Dec. 7, 2023 — Navalny’s team erects billboards across Russia featuring QR codes that lead smartphones to a hidden website urging Russians to take part in a campaign against Putin, who is expected to run for reelection in March 2024. Navalny’s team say the vote is important for Putin as a referendum on his war in Ukraine, rather than a real contest for the presidency.

Dec. 11, 2023 — Navalny is scheduled to appear in court via video link but does not appear, and his spokeswoman says prison officials are citing electricity problems. Navalny’s allies express concern, saying neither they nor his lawyers have heard from him in several weeks.

Dec. 25, 2023 — Navalny’s allies say he’s been located in a prison colony in the town of Kharp, north of the Arctic Circle, notorious for long and severe winters. It’s about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Vorkuta, whose coal mines were among the harshest of the Soviet Gulag prison-camp system.

Jan. 10 — Navalny appears via video link from Kharp for the first time. Russian news outlets release images of him in black prison garb and with a buzz cut, on a live TV feed from the “special regime” penal colony in Kharp, about 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow. At the hearing, Navalny cracks jokes about Arctic weather and asks if officials at his former prison threw a party when he was transferred.

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Feb. 16 — Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service says Navalny died in prison at the age of 47. It says he felt unwell after a walk and collapsed. An ambulance arrived but could not resuscitate him. Navalny’s team says it has no confirmation of his death and that his lawyer is on the way to the Kharp penal colony.  

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European states to move on Palestine recognition as Gaza war rages

European states to move on Palestine recognition as Gaza war rages

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European states to move on Palestine recognition as Gaza war rages

 At least three European countries were expected to announce steps towards recognising a Palestinian state on Wednesday, after more than seven months of devastating fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Irish media reported that the government was expected to announce its formal recognition of a Palestinian state at a press conference by premier Simon Harris, deputy premier Micheal Martin and minister Eamon Ryan at 0700 GMT.

Norway was expected to make a similar announcement around the same time, according to two Norwegian newspapers.

And in Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was scheduled to address parliament about setting a date for recognising a Palestinian state.

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Sanchez said in March that Spain and Ireland, along with Slovenia and Malta, had agreed to take their first steps towards Palestinian recognition, seeing a two-state solution as essential for lasting peace.

Israel’s foreign ministry posted a video addressed to Ireland on X on Tuesday warning that “recognising a Palestinian state risks turning you into a pawn in the hands of Iran and Hamas”.

And Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli previously accused Sanchez’s government of believing “that the Palestinians should be rewarded for the massacre” perpetrated by Hamas and its allies in southern Israel on October 7.

Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

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Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Fighting has raged around the far southern city of Rafah, the last part of Gaza to face a ground invasion — but a resumption of fighting has also been reported in the northern Jabalia area, where Hamas forces have regrouped.

An AFP team in Rafah reported air and artillery strikes in and around the city early Wednesday.

‘Running out of words’

Israeli troops began their ground assault on parts of Rafah early this month, defying international opposition including from top ally the United States, which voiced fears for the more than one million civilians trapped in the city.

Israel has ordered mass evacuations from the city, where it has vowed to eliminate Hamas’s tunnel network and its remaining fighters.

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The UN says more than 800,000 people have fled Rafah, with Edem Wosornu of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs saying most of the displaced had gone to camps in Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah where “they lack adequate latrines, water points, drainage and shelter”.

The World Health Organization has said northern Gaza’s last two functioning hospitals, Al-Awda and Kamal Adwan, were besieged by Israeli forces, with more than 200 patients trapped inside.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, on Tuesday said aid distribution had been suspended in Rafah “due to lack of supplies and insecurity”.

Warrant request

Starvation was among the allegations made against Israel by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan when he announced on Monday that he had applied for arrest warrants for leaders on both sides, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an interview with CNN, the prime minister described Khan as a “rogue prosecutor who has put false charges”, adding that “he didn’t check the facts”.

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The warrant request also targeted Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas’s Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh and its Gaza military and political chiefs, Mohammed Deif and Yahya Sinwar.

US President Joe Biden has backed Netanyahu in condemning the warrant request as “outrageous”.

If granted by the ICC judges, the warrants would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would be required to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they travelled there.

However, the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.

Broadcast ban walked back

Israel on Tuesday shut down an Associated Press live video feed from war-torn Gaza and confiscated its equipment, before reversing the move hours later after the White House intervened.

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The US news agency said Israel had accused it of violating a ban on Al Jazeera, which was ordered shut two weeks ago based on a new Israeli law governing foreign broadcasters.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi later announced he had issued an order to cancel the ban and return the equipment.

AP said that while it was “pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government’s use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel”.

Israeli forces, meanwhile, were also engaged in deadly clashes in the other major Palestinian territory, the occupied West Bank.

At least eight Palestinians were killed in the northern city of Jenin, the Ramallah-based health ministry said, as the army said it was “fighting armed men” in a “counterterrorism operation”.

Palestinian official news agency Wafa said a hospital surgeon, a schoolteacher and a student were among those killed in Jenin, a stronghold of Palestinian militant groups. 

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Volunteers race to save Mexico’s howler monkeys in heat wave

Volunteers race to save Mexico’s howler monkeys in heat wave

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Volunteers race to save Mexico's howler monkeys in heat wave

 Volunteers are rushing to hoist food and water up into trees in sweltering southern Mexico, but help came too late for the howler monkeys whose lifeless bodies lay still on the ground.

Dozens of the primates are reported to have dropped dead from trees in recent weeks, alarming conservationists trying to keep the monkeys hydrated during a heat wave.

Victor Morato and his team at a veterinary hospital in the town of Comalcalco in Tabasco state have treated eight howler monkeys brought in by residents.

“When they arrived here in agony, they extended their hand to us as if to say ‘help me’. I had a lump in my throat,” he told AFP.

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Several monkeys arrived at the clinic with body temperatures of around 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit), Morato said.

When they faint from the heat they sometimes fall 20 meters (65 feet), he added.

It is all the more worrying since the Mexican howler (Alouatta palliata mexicana) and the Yucatan black howler (Alouatta pigra) are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The mantled howler (Alouatta palliata), which also lives in southern Mexico as well as Central and South America, is classified as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Authorities investigate

Leonardo Sanchez was among those putting out water and fruit to help the animals on a cocoa plantation in the southern state of Tabasco.

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The thermometer has reached almost 50 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in recent weeks, the 22-year-old biology student said.

“We’ve had a large number of deaths (of monkeys) due to the increased temperatures,” he said.

Some volunteers carried lime to sprinkle on the bodies of dead primates.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who hails from Tabasco, said Monday the heat was the worst he had known.

“Since I’ve been visiting these states I’ve never felt it as much as I do now,” he said at his regular news conference.

Mexico’s environment ministry has said that it is investigating whether extreme heat was killing the monkeys, with studies under way to rule out a virus or disease.

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Causes under consideration included heat stroke, dehydration, malnutrition or fumigation of crops with pesticides, it said.

In Tabasco, a vulture lingered and flies swarmed near a grave that volunteer Bersabeth Ricardez said contained the bodies of around 30 monkeys.

“Today it’s the monkeys. Tomorrow it will be us,” she said.

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Everest? All in a day’s work for record climber Kami Rita Sherpa

Everest? All in a day’s work for record climber Kami Rita Sherpa

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Everest? All in a day's work for record climber Kami Rita Sherpa

Scaling the world’s highest peak is all in a day’s work for 54-year-old Nepali mountaineer Kami Rita Sherpa, a man breezily modest about having set foot on the summit of Everest more times than any other person.

On Wednesday morning, Sherpa scaled Everest for the 30th time in three decades of climbing the mountain, extending his own record just 10 days after his last successful ascent.

“I am glad for the record, but records are eventually broken,” Sherpa told AFP last week after his 29th successful climb.

“I am happier that my climbs help Nepal be recognised in the world.”

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Dubbed the “Everest Man”, he has held the record since 2018 and his closest rival is now three summits back.

“I did not climb for world records, I was just working,” he said in a 2019 interview. “I did not even know you could set records earlier.”

A living legend of mountaineering, Sherpa was born in 1970 in Thame, a village in the Himalayas famed as a breeding ground of successful mountaineers.

The community’s most famous son, Tenzing Norgay, made the first successful climb of Everest’s 8,849-metre (29,029-foot) peak alongside New Zealand’s Edmund Hillary in 1953.

Growing up, Sherpa watched his father and then his brother don climbing gear to join expeditions as mountain guides, and was soon following in their footsteps.

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A guide for about four decades, he first reached the summit in 1994 while working for a commercial expedition, and has repeated the feat almost every year since.

In 2018, he ascended Everest for the 22nd time, breaking the previous record he shared with two other Sherpa climbers — both of whom have retired.

The following year, aged 49, he conquered Everest twice in six days.

‘The risk we take’

He briefly shared the record last year when another guide, Pasang Dawa Sherpa, equalled his then total of 27 summits.

But he quickly reclaimed it on his own that season with his 28th summit.

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Sherpa has reached the top of four other of the highest Himalayan mountains — K2, Lhotse, Manaslu, and Cho Oyu — and has a world record 44 summits of peaks higher than 8,000 metres.

As a senior climber, he has on numerous occasions led the team that fixes ropes leading up to Everest’s summit, an annual practice before the climbing season begins that makes the ascent safer.

In recent years, he has recounted his own observations of the impact of climate change on the weather patterns on the mountains.

“We now see rock exposed in areas where there used to be snow before. Not just on Everest, other mountains are also losing their snow and ice. It is worrying,” he told AFP in 2022.

He has also been a regular advocate of the importance of Nepali mountain guides and the need for more action to recognise their contributions.

Ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Everest are a crucial component of Nepal’s lucrative mountaineering industry, which nets the Himalayan republic millions every year.

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With their unique ability to work in a low-oxygen, high-altitude atmosphere, they are the backbone of climbing expeditions, helping clients and hauling equipment up Himalayan peaks.

“It would not be possible for many foreign climbers to summit mountains without our help and the risk we take,” Sherpa said in a 2021 interview. 

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