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United Russia party asks MPs not to comment on Alexei Navalny's death, Agentstvo reports

Cover photo: Yulia Morozova / Reuters

The United Russia party, Russia’s ruling political faction, has sent out a message to State Duma MPs asking them to refrain from commenting on the reported death of politician Alexei Navalny, according to a report by independent publication Agentstvo citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Agentstvo also managed to obtain a copy of the message from the party sent out to the MPs.

The message recommends the MPs «to keep strictly in line with the interpretations of the Federal Penitentiary Service” when communicating with journalists. It also adds that it is “better to refrain from commenting entirely.”

The message was sent to the deputies no later than half an hour after Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) reported the death of the politician, Agentstvo noted.

Despite the instructions, several senior Russian state officials issued comments on Navalny's death.

In a post on Telegram, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote:

“The forensic medical examination is not yet available, but the West has already prepared its conclusions [that the Russian authorities are to blame for the politician's death].”

While Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, said that “these things happen”:

“Russia had no sense to harm Navalny's health in any way, absolutely none. The man was serving a sentence that still had several years to go. I think it was an accident, these things happen.”

On February 16, the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District reported Navalny's death in the IK-3 prison in the settlement of Kharp. The report claimed that the opposition politician allegedly felt unwell after a walk and died soon after.

According to the report, despite the prison's medical staff and ambulance workers' best efforts, “resuscitation measures did not yield positive results.”

“The Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is spreading the news of Alexey Navalny's death in IK-3. We have no confirmation of this yet. Alexey's lawyer is currently on his way to Kharp. As soon as we have some information, we will report on it,” Alexei Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on social media.

State investigators in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (District) have begun investigating the cause of Navalny's death, as per the Russian Investigative Committee's website.

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