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‘An unlikely reason for a natural death’ Russian state media says a blood clot killed Navalny. His doctor says there’s no way of knowing without an independent autopsy.

Source: Meduza
Denis Kaminev / AP / Scanpix / LETA

On February 16, Russian prison officials reported that opposition politician Alexey Navalny had died in a penal colony in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Navalny’s associates have yet to independently confirm these reports. Navalny’s lawyer, Leonid Solovyov, said that he last visited his client on February 14 and that he was doing fine at that time. To find out more about the recent state of Navalny’s health, Meduza spoke to Alexander Polupan, one of the doctors who treated the opposition leader following his poisoning in 2020 and then continued to advise his associates on a regular basis. 

Alexander Polupan

When reached by Meduza following reports of Alexey Navalny’s death on February 16, Alexander Polupan said that he had “no exclusive information” about the recent state of the opposition politician’s health. “I don’t know anything his team doesn’t know,” the doctor said. 

Earlier in the day, Russian prison authorities had reported that Navalny “felt unwell after a walk and almost immediately lost consciousness,” and then could not be resuscitated. “Emergency medical personnel confirmed the death of the convict. The cause of death is being established,” they said in a statement. Russia propaganda network RT then claimed that Navalny had died of a “detached blood clot.” 

Polupan said that he wasn’t aware of any “fundamental or critical deterioration” in Navalny’s health. He also questioned the cause of death reported by Russian state media. “Clearly, his health [was generally] poor, as would be the case with any person who is placed in such conditions. But it somehow seems to me that this is an unlikely reason for a natural death,” he told Meduza. “They could have said ‘sudden cardiac arrest’ but only an autopsy can show a thromboembolism. There are no other methods.” 

According to the doctor, Navalny did not have any underlying conditions that would put him at risk of a thromboembolism (this is the medical term for the obstruction of an artery by a dislodged blood clot). “He had problems with his spine some time ago, but they were absolutely not life-threatening, they only caused [him] discomfort,” he recalled. “He also had pneumonia a long time ago. But, I’ll repeat, he had no acute [health] problems lately.”

“He had neuropathy from the Novichok poisoning, but that’s typical for such poisoning [cases],” he added.

Asked if a blood clot could be used as a cover-up for murder, Polupan emphasized the importance of an independent autopsy. “If an honest autopsy is performed, the blood clot should be visible. A diagnosis of a thromboembolism cannot be made without the detached blood clot being found,” the doctor underscored. “But they [the Russian authorities] can do whatever they want — [they can] falsify the autopsy report and no one will be able to verify anything.” 

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Live updates: Alexey Navalny is dead Russia’s most famous opposition figure has died in prison


Live updates: Alexey Navalny is dead Russia’s most famous opposition figure has died in prison

Interview by Svetlana Reiter

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